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Leonora Carrington

“She would not be a madwoman, nor anyone’s beautiful corpse.” That’s how Anwen Crawford of the New Yorker described the subject of today’s post, Leonora Carrington.

Carrington was a surrealist artist who spent most of her life in Mexico City. She is best known for being the girlfriend of Max Ernst, but she went on to lead a life that was extraordinary in its own right.

She was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in England. After being expelled from several schools she was finally shipped off to Florence, where she attended an art academy. She later ran away to France with the Ernst. Her cousin, Joanna Moorhead, described Carrington as “an impossible creature, a wild child, an unfathomable puzzle of a girl.”

In the midst of World War II Ernst was arrested and eventually escaped, leaving Carrington behind. She in turn ran away to Spain, where her family had her institutionalized. After experiencing “treatments” that were more like torture, Carrington wrote one of her first surrealist novel Down Below.

After befriending a Mexican Ambassador, she was finally able to move to Mexico, the country that eventually became her home and a lifelong source of inspiration for her fantastical paintings.

Both her paintings and writings tried to subvert the female form. Carrington was not content to be a muse. She challenged herself and others throughout her life: from moving to a new country and writing in a language that was not her own to leading the Women’s Liberation Movement in Mexico City.

Leonora Carrington truly deserved to be called a hero.