Two new books celebrate the life and work of writer and painter Leonora Carrington who is known mainly as a “fantastical visual artist associated with the Surrealist movement,” says Nel Dahl.
Carrington was born in Lancashire, England in 1917, the only girl of four children, a wild spirit who “racked up several school expulsions for ‘anti-social tendencies and certain supernatural proclivities.’ “Her upper-class family discouraged her pursuit of art and instead forcer her to live the life of a debutante.
“By the time she was 30, the formidable painter and writer Leonora Carrington had had an affair with Max Ernst, endured a nervous breakdown, been forcibly installed in a mental institution, fled to Mexico, and written a harrowing memoir about madness,” says Dahl.
Carrington’s involvement with the Surrealist movement was productive and complex but it reflects, argues Dahl, the “narrow, fetishistic path the movement had for women” — with male superstar artists often making talented women their “muses.”
Carrington claimed the role was “bullshit,” adding “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse. I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”
And she never stopped imploring people to “question the erasure of women in history, to question men and those in power,” Dahl says, and pointing to “gaps and peculiarities that only begin to make sense if understood as a covering-up for a very different kind of civilization which had been eliminated.”