Leonora Carrington shines in exhibition at Dalí Museum

During her lifetime, Leonora Carrington produced more than 2,000 paintings and authored several notable written works, earning the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement award in 1986. The Dalí Museum will present “Leonora Carrington: Writer, Painter, Visionary,” from September 9, 2023 to January 7, 2024 in The Museum’s Raymond James Community Room. The exhibition will highlight Carrington’s personal life, her written work and her visionary images.

Celebrated for her mystical, fantastical and often dark work, Carrington (1917-2011) was raised in a strict household in England and expelled from two Catholic schools before attending art school where she flourished. As a young woman, she found herself surrounded by prominent surrealist figures, including André Breton and Max Ernst — the latter with whom she was romantically involved and inseparable from for several years. During her time with Ernst, she began developing her signature dreamlike style and writing short stories.

“Leonora Carrington did not describe herself as a Surrealist, but Surrealism informed everything she created, seen both in her occult-like magical painted figures and in her visionary writings that explore dreams and transformation,” Peter Tush, curator of education at The Dalí, said. “Her surreal approach to art makes the inclusion of her artwork in a museum dedicated to the work of Salvador Dalí an enlightening juxtaposition. We look forward to sharing her story in the context of Surrealism and Dalí with our visitors.”

Carrington’s remarkable life was filled with adversity and profoundly shaped her artistic endeavors. Born into a wealthy conservative English family, she rebelled early on, finding solace in her partnership with Ernst. WWII ruptured their bond when Ernst was arrested by the French police and German Gestapo.

These separations initiated Carrington’s collapse, propelling her to leave France. In Madrid, another mental breakdown led her to be institutionalized in a Spanish asylum against her will. She orchestrated an escape by a marriage of convenience with Mexican Ambassador Renato Leduc, which facilitated her flight to New York.

She eventually settled in Mexico, where she thrived creatively, forming connections with expatriate artists and marrying photographer Emerico “Chiki” Weisz. The majority of her most notable work was created in Mexico, her primary residence until her death in 2011 at the age of 94.  

Carrington’s writings include “Down Below,” the 1943 memoir of her experiences in the asylum; “The House of Fear,” a collection of fantastical short stories; and her novel “The Hearing Trumpet,” an eco-feminist fairytale. In addition to excerpts from her acclaimed works, the exhibition will include a display of the artist’s books, photographs, digital versions of her paintings and a suite of etchings, which were produced in Tampa, Florida for Graphicstudio – USF Institute for Research in Art, where she worked with The Dalí’s director Hank Hine in 1998.  

“Carrington was a person who was spiritual and vulnerable,” Hine said. “As her works of art and literature show, she was enchanted by a tradition of looking beyond the ordinary and celebrating the forms she found there.” 

“Leonora Carrington: Writer, Painter, Visionary” is part of the annual series of fall exhibitions focused on writers associated with Surrealism and is free to the public.

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