Leonora Carrington  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Leonora Carrington (April 6, 1917-May 25, 2011) was a British-born Mexican artist, a surrealist painter and a novelist. She lived most of her life in Mexico City.


Early life

Carrington was born in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, 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 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 book to read by Aldous Huxley Eyeless in Gaza (1936), instead. In London she attended the Chelsea School of Art and joined the Academy of Amédée Ozenfant.

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. She was already familiar with surrealism from Herbert Read's book.

Leonora Carrington found little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career. Matthew Gale, curator at Tate Modern, singled out Surrealist poet and patron Edward James 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's Gallery in New York. Some works are still hanging at his former family home now West Dean College in West Dean, West Sussex.

Max Ernst

Carrington saw Max Ernst's work in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London where she was immediately attracted to the Surrealist artist before actually meeting him.

She met Max Ernst at a party in London in 1937. The artists bonded and returned to Paris together where Ernst promptly separated from his wife. In 1938 they left Paris and settled in Saint Martin d'Ardèche in the Provence region, of the south of France. The new couple collaborated and supported each other's artistic development. With the outbreak of World War II, Max Ernst was arrested by French authorities for being a "hostile alien". Thanks to the intercession of Paul Éluard, and other friends including the American journalist Varian Fry 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, a sponsor of the arts. After Ernst's arrest, a devastated Carrington fled to Spain. Paralysing 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 cardiazol, a powerful GABA stimulator 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, 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 a Mexican diplomat (Renato Leduc), 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 lives and works 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 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's Pallant House Gallery, West Sussex 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 (1908–1963) and the Hungarian photographer Kati Horna (1912–2000).

Carrington is one of the last living Surrealist painters of her era. In 2005, Christie's auctioned Carrington's "Juggler"[1]; the realized price was $713,000. This 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
  • Une chemise de nuit de flanelle (1951)
  • El Mundo Magico 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

See also


  • Chadwick, Whitney. Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement (Thames and Hudson, New York, 1985).
  • Sills, Leslie & Whitman. A. "Visions: stories of women artists (Morton Grove, Illinois, 1993).
  • Aberth, Susan L. Leonora Carrington - Surrealism, Alchemy and Art (Lund Humphries, 2004).
  • Moorhead, Joanna. Another world (article about Carrington from the Daily Telegraph magazine, 24 Apr 2010).
  • Raay, Stefan van; Moorhead, Joanna; Arcq, Teresa. "Surreal Friends: Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna" (Lund Humphries in association with Pallant House Gallery, 2010).

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Leonora Carrington" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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