I’m as mysterious to myself as I am mysterious to others. –Leonora Carrington
On April 6, 1917, an imaginative Leonora Carrington was born in Lancashire, England. The daughter of a wealthy textile manufacturer, Carrington grew up on a large estate full of wild flora and fauna, under the care of an Irish nanny named Mary Kavanaugh. It was in this setting that Leonora came to truly love nature and Irish folklore, both of which influenced her work later on. Under the auspices of her Catholic parents, Carrington was sent to one convent school after another in an attempt to instill in her a sense of religious discipline. However, she was routinely expelled from each school due to her “eccentricity, usually a combination of antisocial tendencies and certain supernatural proclivities.” She took no interest in religious studies and therefore refused to let her rebellious spirit be tamed by these rigid environments. After numerous attempts to convince her parents to send her to art school, Leonora finally succeeded.
When she was eighteen, Leonora was sent to the Chelsea School of Art in London. After a few months at the Chelsea School, Carrington moved to the recently opened Ozenfant Academy for Art in London. Ozenfant ran his school like a drill sergeant, and was able to instill in Carrington the discipline that she needed to harness her creative energy. In 1936, there were two major Surrealist exhibitions in London: The First International Surrealist Exhibition in June, and a solo exhibition of the work of Max Ernst. Carrington learned about Surrealism and became particularly interested in Ernst’s work. When she met Ernst at a dinner party, it was love at first sight. Of their love, art historian Susan Aberth says “it was a profoundly transformational experience for Carrington, who, literally overnight, was freed from a lifetime of familial restrictions and was propelled into an artistic community and lifestyle that promised the sorts of freedoms and creative expressions she had always longed for.” At age twenty, Carrington moved to Paris where she joined Andre Breton’s Surrealist ring and moved in with Ernst. (continue reading)