Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington

3 min read  ·  17 Jul 2023

And Then We Saw the Daughter of the Minotaur, Leonora Carrington, 1953

And Then We Saw the Daughter of the Minotaur, Leonora Carrington, 1953

HENI Art Club exclusive talk on Surrealist Vanguard Leonora Carrington.

HENI Art Club members are invited to join us for an exclusive talk about a long-underrated figure of Surrealism, Leonora Carrington, who today is considered to be at the vanguard of the movement. Joanna Moorhead, cousin to the late artist and author of Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington, will lead us through an intimate look at her life and art.

Leonora Carrington’s life makes for an amazing story. For a long time, Joanna Moorhead knew very little about a mysterious cousin in Mexico, but after a chance encounter with an art historian at a party, and further coincidences including a work trip to Mexico, she ended up meeting with Carrington in Mexico City in 2006, forging a lasting relationship until Carrington’s passing in 2011.

Born in 1917, Carrington grew up in a wealthy family in England who hoped she would lead a traditional life and marry an aristocrat. Carrington rebelled against this lifestyle, and after meeting renowned surrealist artist Max Ernst in 1937, more than 20 years her senior, they began a love affair and moved to Paris. After relocating to the south of France, WW2 and the Nazi invasion of France led to Ernst being detained at a prison camp and Carrington fleeing to Spain. The traumatic experiences of her young life caused her to suffer a breakdown, after which she ended up in another highly traumatic situation, a sanatorium in northern Spain. After escaping, she met Mexican poet Renato Leduc, whom she married in order to leave Europe, landing in New York and later travelling to Mexico where she would spend the rest of her life, living on her own terms.

She was one of the last surviving participants of the surrealist movement of the 1930s and fought back against the idea that women were there to act as muse for male artists, once stating “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse…I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”

Joanna’s recently published book Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington is available to HENI Art Club members at a 25% discount in the print bookshop.

Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington is an illustrated biography of the remarkable and pioneering artist Leonora Carrington, told through the houses and locations that had meaning for her and are fundamental to an understanding of her work.

From Lancashire to London, Cornwall to France and Spain, then to Mexico, New York and finally back to Mexico, each place and interior became etched in her memory – whether her grandmother’s kitchen with its giant stove, Parisian cafés, a rural French hideaway, the sanatorium in Santander or her Mexican sanctuary – only to be echoed, sometimes decades later, in her paintings and writings. ‘Houses are really bodies,’ she wrote in her novella The Hearing Trumpet (1974), ‘We connect ourselves with walls, roofs, and objects just as we hang on to our livers, skeletons, flesh and blood streams.’