Leonora Carrington, St.Martin d'Ardeche, France , 1939
The visionary Surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington, who died in 2011, is enjoying a surge of international attention. Her work inspired the theme of this year’s Venice Biennale, titled “The Milk of Dreams” and curated by Cecilia Alemani. Over the past decade, academics have studied Carrington’s work with renewed fervor, and her auction prices are soaring. The themes that dominate her magical oeuvre—such as feminism, gender fluidity, and profound ecoconsciousness—could not be more timely.
This past May, Carrington’s painting The Garden of Paracelsus (1957), which features androgynous figures engaged in mysterious rituals, sold for $3.2 million at Sotheby’s and set a new auction record for the artist. Carrington’s work is prominent in the current exhibitions “Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity” at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and “Surrealism: Beyond Borders” at Tate Modern. Her legacy is also reverberating far beyond institutional walls: Her feisty, uncompromising spirit and strange sui generis style are increasingly influencing contemporary artists, and female painters in particular.
“She was so ahead of her time in her own art and writing and ideas and perspective on the world…she was such an innovator and I think people are only starting to realize that now,” said academic Catriona McAra, when asked to explain Carrington’s increased visibility and popularity. McAra is the author of the forthcoming monograph “The Medium of Leonora Carrington: a feminist haunting of the contemporay arts,” which explores Carrington’s influence on contemporary creative figures.
Born in Lancashire, England, in 1917, Carrington refused to bow to convention from an early age. She rejected the role of society wife and mother that her parents expected her to fulfill, heading to London to study art instead. She fell in love with the much older artist Max Ernst and moved with him to Paris, but refused to to be confined to the role of muse or “femme enfant,” an infantalizing term which the Surrealists imposed on young women in their milieu............