Surreal FriendsSurreal Friends

Leonora Carrington

Born 6 April 1917 in Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Lives and works in Mexico City

The Early Years

Born to an affluent middle-class family in Preston, Lancashire, in April 1917, Leonora Carrington's life looked set to follow a privileged, if restricted, path.

Carrington's father was a textile millionaire, and as a child she wanted for nothing materially. Their mother was a devout Catholic and she and her three brothers were raised by nannies before being sent to top Catholic boarding schools.

But from the outset, Carrington kicked against the narrowness of her background. Money might have been no object, but imagination and culture were in short supply.

Carrington's respite was to tap into the richness of the stories and history of her Irish mother. This was followed by spells at finishing schools in Paris and Florence which introduced Carrington to the world of Renaissance art.

Later she persuaded her parents to allow her to study at Amédée Ozenfant's art school in London. In 1937 she met Max Ernst and fell instantly in love with him.

The European Years

Cutting herself off from her family, Leonora eloped with Ernst to Paris and was plunged into the heady world of pre-war Surrealism.  Before long she could count Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso among her friends.

Later, Carrington and Ernst decided to leave Paris for the South of France.  There they painted one another, wrote, and entertained friends.

However their affair was broken up by the arrival of the Second World War when Ernst was interned by the Vichy French.

Cut off from her homeland, her family and her friends, Carrington found herself in a desperately difficult situation.  She fled to Spain but suffered a nervous breakdown and was herself incarcerated in a lunatic asylum.  This experience, from which she was only freed by the intervention of a cousin, was to sear her for life.

To Mexico

After leaving Spain, Leonora made her way to Portugal, meeting a Mexican diplomat called Renato Leduc to whom she had first been introduced by Picasso in Paris en route.  Leduc offered to marry her in order to help her flee Europe.  She accepted his proposal, and sailed for New York and two years later journeyed on to Mexico City, where she remains to this day.

After the traumas of Europe, Mexico brought space in which to hone her own work as a painter.  It also brought a new marriage - to a photographer, Emerico (Chiki) Weisz, as well as the birth of two sons - and new friendships, particularly with her fellow painter Remedios Varo, and the photographer Kati Horna.