Leonora Carrington


Biography of Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington (6 April 1917 – 25 May 2011) was a British-born Mexican artist, a surrealist painter and a novelist. She lived most of her life in Mexico City.

Carrington was born in Clayton Green, Chorley, Lancashire, England. Her father was a wealthy textile manufacturer; her mother, Maureen Moorhead, was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Her brothers were Patrick, Gerald, and Arthur. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crookhey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from two schools, including New Hall School, Chelmsford, for her rebellious behaviour until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose's Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist's career for her, but her mother encouraged her. She returned to England and was presented at Court, but according to her, she brought a copy of Aldous Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza (1936) to read instead. In 1935, she attended the Chelsea School of Art in London for one year but thanks to her father's friend Serge Chermayeff, she was able to transfer to the Ozenfant Academy in London from 1935-1938.

She saw her first Surrealist painting in a Left Bank gallery in 1927 (when she was ten years old) and met many Surrealists, including Paul Éluard. She became familiar with Surrealism from a copy of Herbert Read's book 'Surrealism' (1936) that her mother gave her. Leonora Carrington found little encouragement from her family to forge an artistic career.

Matthew Gale, curator at Tate Modern, singled out Surrealist poet and patron Edward James as the only champion of her work in Britain. James bought many of her paintings, and in 1947 arranged a show for her work at Pierre Matisse's Gallery in New York. Some works are still hanging at his former family home, now West Dean College in West Dean, West Sussex.

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