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The Surrealist Art of Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) was a British born surrealist painter. Although she came from a family of high privilege, she had a fierce rebellious spirit and elevated perception from an early age that would drive her potential beyond her background. After being expelled from many schools, she was sent to Mrs. Penrose Academy of Art in Italy. Later she attended the Chelsea School of Art and the Ozenfant Academy, both in London where she developed her technical skills. However, the magical realism that occupied her psyche took flight over the walls of the institutions. 

Although the young woman was made to come out as a debutante at Buckingham Palace by her parents, she was never deterred from fulfilling her deepest destiny. Her vision and determination as an artist to explore the strange landscapes of surrealism surpassed her family obligations to meet with tradition, and uphold a standard place in society. 

She faced many great events in her life that would test her resilience, including escaping the Nazi’s while her friend and one-time companion, surrealist artist Max Ernst was arrested by the regime after they occupied France. In 1939, after the traumatic event, she trekked across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain to visit the Prado Museum in pursuit of her own potential and to view the masterpieces that fed her own visions. Despite her depth of character and ability, she suffered a psychotic break and was sent to recover against her will in a Spanish institution where she was rescued by her former nanny in a submarine documented in her 1944 memoir “Down Below.” 

She recovered from her breakdown, which had been brought on in part by her failure to be able to emancipate Ernst from the Nazi’s, and had evolved into a delusional belief that she had a metaphysical power over the world. She moved to Mexico City in 1942, newly divorced, equipped with more insight into the unknown realm of the psyche.  Carrington transformed the psychosis of believing she actually controlled humankind’s destiny on Earth into fantastical and breathtaking existences on the multiverses of her canvas. She continued to have a brilliant career and life, including a second marriage and two children and ongoing collaborations with many other European artists who had fled to Mexico to seek asylum from Nazi Germany.

In  Carrington’s painting Adieu Ammenotep,1960; oil on canvas,   a strange operation is being performed over the body of Egyptian pharaoh Ammenotop. The artist believed he was a ruler who expanded the idea of patriarchy, further suppressing the female voice and pushing women underground. In the painting suspended in a surgical suite, attended to by priests and priestesses, the entrails of the King, now a lotus flower, are being medically removed from the body. In the symmetry of the piece there is a slight sterility, echoing a modern day operating theatre, expressed through the geometric and minimalist imagery.  An unknown observer peers in from a window and a group of men separated from the room look on. 

Leonora Carrington had an intense interest with the dream world of the mind and bringing it into visibility through such unusual and sometimes provocative imagery. Perhaps the artist’s attempt to recreate an alternate reality in a parallel world where things unfold as the dreamer and observer intend them to. Carrington’s art were representations of the magical universes and gateways between the rational, conscious mind and the subconscious material that governs an immensity of the human experience. An activist and intellect her entire career, these dream realities were perhaps her way of retracting and recreating history, through the metaphysical and psychological realms of the non-linear psyche. 
 

Galleria

The Surrealist Art of Leonora Carrington

Self Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse), 1937-38
Self Portrait (Inn of the Dawn Horse), 1937-38

by Leonora Carrington

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Pastoral, 1950
Pastoral, 1950

by Leonora Carrington

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The Burning of Giordano Bruno, 1964
The Burning of Giordano Bruno, 1964

by Leonora Carrington

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Who Art Thou? White Face, 1959
Who Art Thou? White Face, 1959

by Leonora Carrington

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Untitled, 1949-50
Untitled, 1949-50

by Leonora Carrington

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Figuras Fantasticas a Caballo,  2011
Figuras Fantasticas a Caballo, 2011

by Leonora Carrington

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The Ordeal of Owain,1959
The Ordeal of Owain,1959

by Leonora Carrington

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Grandma Moorhead’s Aromatic Kitchen, 1975
Grandma Moorhead’s Aromatic Kitchen, 1975

by Leonora Carrington

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Adieu Ammenotep, 1960
Adieu Ammenotep, 1960

by Leonora Carrington

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