April 20, 2023
Exhibitions in Madrid | Leonora Carrington at Mapfre Foundation
Orietta Ibarrondo Gelardin

Leonora Carrington ( Lancashire, 1917 – Mexico City, 2011) was one of the most significant women artists associated with the Surrealists. Her artistic career has been marked by her turbulent life story which made her an eccentric and tragic figure.

Leonora Carrington, Le Bon Roi Dagobert, 1948

The temporary exhibition at Mapfre Fundación aims to pay tribute to this unique artist and to disseminate the richness and complexity of a body of work that is well known in the United States and Mexico but which has only received greater recognition in Europe in the last few years. While Carrington had a notable influence on various artists of Spanish origin, her work has barely been exhibited in Spain until now.

Carrington spent most of her childhood times living in Lancashire where she was born beside her mom surrounded by the countryside and was able to live with animals, mostly horses. She was brought up by her irish nanny, who read her fairytale stories from the Celctic period which has been an important source of inspiration when painting her canvases and were a main tool that nourished her imagination. During these years she was rebellious and always disobeyed her mother. In fact, she ran away from her family and moved to Paris where all the Surrealist masters were living. During her stay in Paris, she met Max Ernst and then moved to the south of France to a farmhouse surrounded by vineyards that was also a key influence in her depictions. 

Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst, 1939

Together with these key moments and phases in her life, the exhibition focuses on the motifs that traverse a complex and arcane discourse which will perhaps both fascinate and disconcert visitors: the reinterpretation of trauma; a contemplation of her origins and its founding myths; her connection with ancestral and sacred female figures; an identification with the animal world which made her a paradigm of ecofeminism; an absorption of cultural elements from the places she visited and lived in, from Renaissance painting in Florence to Mesoamerican art in Mexico; and an interest in non-canonical forms of thought and spirituality such as alchemy, magic and the tarot, as well as mythologies erased from history. 

Leonora Carrington, Are you Really Syrious? 1953

Throughout her artistic career, Carrington’s work portrays and touches on ideas of sexual identity yet avoids the frequent Surrealist stereotyping of women as objects of male desire. Instead, she drew on her life and friendships to represent women's self-perceptions, the bonds between women of all ages, and female figures within male-dominated environments and histories.