Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington OBE (6 April 191725 May 2011) was a British-born
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 artist, a surrealist painter
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

 and a novelist. She lived most of her life in Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...


Early life

Carrington was born in Clayton Green
Clayton-le-Woods is a large village and civil parish of the Borough of Chorley, in Lancashire, England. According to the United Kingdom Census 2001 it has a population of 14,528.-Geography:...

, Chorley
Chorley is a market town in Lancashire, in North West England. It is the largest settlement in the Borough of Chorley. The town's wealth came principally from the cotton industry...

, Lancashire
Lancashire is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in the North West of England. It takes its name from the city of Lancaster, and is sometimes known as the County of Lancaster. Although Lancaster is still considered to be the county town, Lancashire County Council is based in Preston...

, England. Her father was a wealthy textile manufacturer; her mother was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crookhey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from two schools, including New Hall School
New Hall School
New Hall is one of the oldest Catholic schools in England. It is located in the former Tudor Palace of Beaulieu in Essex.Today New Hall is a leading Catholic independent boarding & day school for boys and girls aged 3–18. Founded in 1642, New Hall School, Chelmsford, is the oldest Catholic school...

, Chelmsford
Chelmsford is the county town of Essex, England and the principal settlement of the borough of Chelmsford. It is located in the London commuter belt, approximately northeast of Charing Cross, London, and approximately the same distance from the once provincial Roman capital at Colchester...

, for her rebellious behaviour until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose's Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist's career for her, but her mother encouraged her. She returned to England and was presented at Court, but according to her, she brought a copy of Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley
Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel...

's Eyeless in Gaza
Eyeless in Gaza
Eyeless in Gaza is a bestselling novel by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1936. The title originates from a phrase in John Milton's Samson Agonistes:The chapters of the book are not ordered chronologically...

 (1936) to read instead. In London she attended the Chelsea School of Art and joined the Academy of Amédée Ozenfant
Amédée Ozenfant
Amédée Ozenfant was a French cubist painter.He was born into a bourgeois family in Saint-Quentin, Aisne and was educated at Dominican colleges in Saint-Sébastien...


She saw her first Surrealist painting in a Left Bank gallery in 1927 (when she was ten years old) and met many Surrealists, including Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard, born Eugène Émile Paul Grindel , was a French poet who was one of the founders of the surrealist movement.-Biography:...

. She became familiar with Surrealism from a copy of Herbert Read
Herbert Read
Sir Herbert Edward Read, DSO, MC was an English anarchist, poet, and critic of literature and art. He was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism, and was strongly influenced by proto-existentialist thinker Max Stirner....

's book 'Surrealism' (1936) that her mother gave her.
Leonora Carrington found little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career.

Matthew Gale, curator at Tate Modern
Tate Modern
Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London, England. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group . It is the most-visited modern art gallery in the world, with around 4.7 million visitors per year...

, singled out Surrealist poet and patron Edward James
Edward James
Edward William Frank James was a British poet known for his patronage of the surrealist art movement.-Early life and marriage:...

 as the only champion of her work in Britain. James bought many of her paintings, and in 1947 arranged a show for her work at Pierre Matisse
Pierre Matisse
Pierre Matisse was an art dealer active in New York City. He was the youngest child of French painter Henri Matisse.-Background and early years:...

's Gallery in New York. Some works are still hanging at his former family home, now West Dean College in West Dean, West Sussex
West Dean, West Sussex
West Dean is a village and civil parish in the District of Chichester in West Sussex, England located north of Chichester on the A286 road just west of Singleton. The parish includes the hamlets of Binderton and Chilgrove....


Max Ernst

Carrington saw Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.-Early life:...

's work in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, and was immediately attracted to the Surrealist artist before actually meeting him.

She met Ernst at a party in London in 1937. The artists bonded and returned together to Paris, where Ernst promptly separated from his wife. In 1938 they left Paris and settled in Saint Martin d'Ardèche
Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche is a commune in the department of Ardèche in southern France.Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche is situated at the southern entrance of the Ardèche Canyon, the Gorges de l'Ardèche.-Administration:...

 in the south of France. The new couple collaborated and supported each other's artistic development. With the outbreak of World War II, Ernst was arrested by French authorities for being a "hostile alien." Thanks to the intercession of Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard
Paul Éluard, born Eugène Émile Paul Grindel , was a French poet who was one of the founders of the surrealist movement.-Biography:...

, and other friends including the American journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

 Varian Fry
Varian Fry
Varian Mackey Fry was an American journalist. Fry ran a rescue network in Vichy France that helped approximately 2,000 to 4,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.-Early life:...

, he was discharged a few weeks later.

Soon after the Nazi occupation of France, Ernst was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo. He managed to escape and flee to America with the help of Peggy Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim
Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim was an American art collector. Born to a wealthy New York City family, she was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim, who went down with the Titanic in 1912 and the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, who would establish the Solomon R...

, a sponsor of the arts. After Ernst's arrest, a devastated Carrington fled to Spain. Paralyzing anxiety and growing delusions culminated in a final breakdown at the British Embassy in Madrid. Her parents intervened and had her institutionalized. She was given "convulsive therapy" with cardiazol, a powerful anxiogenic
An anxiogenic substance is one that causes anxiety. Anxiogenic effects can be measured by, for example, the hole-board test in rats and mice. A number of agents are used to provoke anxiety or panic in experimental models...

 drug that was eventually banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other authorities. After being released into the care of a nurse who took her to Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

, Carrington ran away and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy. Meanwhile, Ernst had been extricated from Europe with the help of Peggy Guggenheim, but Ernst and Carrington had experienced so much misery that they were unable to reconnect.


Following the escape to Lisbon, Carrington arranged passage out of Europe with Renato Leduc
Renato Leduc
Renato Leduc was a Mexican poet and journalist.- Biography :Leduc, son of a French father and a Mexican mother, served as a signalist in Francisco Villa's División del Norte, and studied law at the Universidad Nacional de México...

, a Mexican diplomat who was a friend of Picasso and who had agreed to marry Carrington as part of the travel arrangements to help her. Events from that period would inform her work perhaps forever. She lived and worked in Mexico after spending part of the 1960s in New York City.
"I didn't have time to be anyone's muse... I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist." --Leonora Carrington, 1983

In Mexico she later married Emericko Weisz. They had two sons: Gabriel Weisz, an intellectual and a poet, and Pablo Weisz, a surrealist artist and doctor.

Leonora Carrington died in Mexico City on Wednesday May 25, 2011, while hospitalized due to complications from pneumonia.


The first important exhibition of her work appeared in 1947 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery
Pierre Matisse
Pierre Matisse was an art dealer active in New York City. He was the youngest child of French painter Henri Matisse.-Background and early years:...

 in New York City. Leonora Carrington was invited to show her work in an international exhibition of Surrealism where she was the only female English professional painter. She became a celebrity almost overnight. In Mexico she authored and has successfully published several books.
The first major exhibition of her work in the UK for twenty years took place at Chichester
Chichester is a cathedral city in West Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, South-East England. It has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings...

's Pallant House Gallery
Pallant House Gallery
Pallant House Gallery is an art gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, England. It houses one of the best collections of 20th century British art in the world....

, West Sussex
West Sussex
West Sussex is a county in the south of England, bordering onto East Sussex , Hampshire and Surrey. The county of Sussex has been divided into East and West since the 12th century, and obtained separate county councils in 1888, but it remained a single ceremonial county until 1974 and the coming...

, from 17 June to 12 September 2010 as part of a season of major international exhibitions called Surreal Friends, celebrating the place of women in the Surrealist movement. Her work was exhibited alongside pieces by her close friends the Spanish painter Remedios Varo
Remedios Varo
Remedios Varo Uranga was a Spanish-Mexican, para-surrealist painter and anarchist. She was born María de los Remedios Varo Uranga in Anglès, Girona, Spain in 1908. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement...

 (1908–1963) and the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna (1912–2000).

Carrington was one of the last living Surrealist painters of her era. In 2005, Christie's
Christie's is an art business and a fine arts auction house.- History :The official company literature states that founder James Christie conducted the first sale in London, England, on 5 December 1766, and the earliest auction catalogue the company retains is from December 1766...

 auctioned Carrington's "Juggler". The realized price was US$713,000, which set a new record for the highest price paid at auction for a living surrealist painter.


By Carrington:
  • La Maison de la Peur (1938) - with illustrations by Max Ernst
    Max Ernst
    Max Ernst was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was one of the primary pioneers of the Dada movement and Surrealism.-Early life:...

  • Une chemise de nuit de flanelle (1951)
  • El Mundo Mágico de Los Mayas (Museo Nacional de Antropología, 1964) - illustrated by Leonora Carrington.
  • The Oval Lady: Surreal Stories (Capra Press, 1975)
  • The Hearing Trumpet (Routledge, 1976)
  • The Stone Door (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977)
  • The Seventh Horse and Other Tales (Dutton, 1988)
  • The House of Fear (Trans. K. Talbot and M. Warner. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988)
  • Down Below ( Chicago,Black Swan Press, 1972; renewed edition 1988)

Featuring Carrington:
  • Jodorowsky, Alejandro
    Alejandro Jodorowsky
    Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky, known as Alejandro Jodorowsky, is a Chilean filmmaker, playwright, actor, author, comic book writer and spiritual guru...

    . The Spiritual Journey Of Alejandro Jodorowsky (2008).
  • Elena Poniatowska
    Elena Poniatowska
    Elena Poniatowska is a Mexican journalist and author. Her generation of writers include Carlos Fuentes‎, José Emilio Pacheco and Carlos Monsiváis.-Life:Poniatowska was born in Paris to Prince Jean Joseph Evremont Sperry Poniatowski and Paula Amor Yturbe...

    . Leonora (2011)

External links

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