Leonora Carrington was born in 1917 in Lancashire, England, to an Irish mother and an English father. A precocious child, she was expelled from convent school as an unteachable teenager, and went to study in Florence before attending art school in London. In 1937 she met Max Ernst and moved with him to Paris, where she became a prominent figure in the still-flourishing Surrealist group. While in Paris she participated in Surrealist exhibitions and published her first stories.

With the advent of the war Max Ernst was interned by the French as an enemy alien and Leonora fled to Spain, and then migrated to New York and eventually Mexico City. There she remained for much of her life, raising her two sons, Gabriel and Pablo, together with her second husband, the Hungarian photographer Emerico Weisz. In Mexico she devoted herself to creating the body of paintings, graphics, textiles, and sculpture upon which rests her international reputation in the visual arts, as well as writing the classic fantasy The Hearing Trumpet and numerous short fictions and plays.

Her name became more and more associated with Latin America until the mid-1970s, when several long sojourns in New York and Chicago, rising interest in women artists, and publication of her literary work in English-speaking countries and in translations around the world brought her rediscovery among the cultural elite. New exhibitions in New York and London and publication of her short fictions and the memoir Down Below and autobiographical novella Little Francis raised her profile further during the 1980s and 90s. Leonora died in 2011 just as a younger generation of readers more widely schooled in works of the fantastic began to acclaim her as a visionary and precursor. A major retrospective of her work opened in 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City.




Books about Leonora Carrington and Her Art

Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement, by Whitney Chadwick (1985)

The House of Fear: Notes from Down Below, by Leonora Carrington (1988)

The Reflowering of the Goddess, by Gloria Feman Orenstein (1990)

Leonora Carrington: The Mexican Years, 1943–1985, by The Mexican Museum, San Francisco (1991)

Leonora Carrington: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculptures 1940–1990, edited by Andrea Schlieker (1991)

Leyendas De La Novia Del Viento: Leonora Carrington Escritoria, Lourdes Andrade (2001)

Leonora Carrington: Historia en dos tiempos, Lourdes Andrade (1998)

Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy, and Art, by Susan L. Aberth (2004)

Leonora Carrington: Dibujo, Pintura y grabado, by Gabriel Weisz (2007)

Leonora antes de Leonora: Una vida imaginada, by Sofía G. Buzali (2013)

Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist, by the Irish Museum of Art (2013)

Leonora Carrington: Ultimas esculturas (2008–2011), by Pablo Weisz

The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington, by Joanna Moorhead (2017)

Recent Articles and Reviews


The New York Review of Books           March 8, 2018

In the Cauldron at Midnight

Regina Marler

One morning in Mexico City in 1991, the English Surrealist artist and writer Leonora Carrington and the art historian Whitney Chadwick set off for the Mercado de Sonora, a traditional market in a rough part of town that is also known as a mercado de brujería, or witches’ market. “It is here that the shamans and the curanderas [folk healers] find their supplies,” Carrington explained. After showing Chadwick [read more]


hyperallergic.com           September 9, 2017

The Surrealist Satire of Leonora Carrington

These stunningly strange, arrestingly intellectual constructs treat the human imagination with humor and forgiveness.

Douglas Messerli

Despite the title of this beautiful book, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, the author’s writings are not what most readers would define as traditional “stories.” In some way the works are similar to fairy tales, most focusing on speaking animals and magical creatures. But Carrington’s writings do not accord with the standard tales [read more]


Bookforum           Sept/Oct/Nov 2017

Surreal Talk

The otherworldly, magical writing of Leonora Carrington

Porochista Khakpour

The mid-twentieth-century Spanish Mexican artist Remedios Varo once wrote a fan letter to Gerald Gardner, known in the UK as the “father of modern witchcraft,” in which she let him know that in Mexico City he was not alone: “I, Mrs Carrington and some other people [read more]


The Rumpus           August 11, 2017


Kevin Thomas

[see more of this strip]


nytimes.com           July 28, 2017

New Sentences: From “The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington”

Sam Anderson

Leonora Carrington kept a pet eagle, planted a tree in the center of her house and was once reportedly rescued from a mental asylum by a nanny in a submarine. She cooked her houseguests omelets that included their own hair, which she had secretly snipped off [read more]


New York Times           June 2, 2017

The Romance and Heartbreak of Writing in a Language Not Your Own

Parul Sehgal

As a child, Leonora Carrington — painter, fabulist, incorrigible eccentric — developed the disconcerting ability to write backward with her left hand while writing forward with her right. This trick did not go over well with English convent school nuns. Between the world wars, Carrington was thrown out of one school after another for persistently odd behavior. When she came of age, she fled England [read more]


Artnews            June 9, 2017

“It Was Very Clear I Was Possessed”: New Books Reveal Leonora Carrington’s Surreal Voice in Memoir and Fiction

Barbara A. MacAdam

One of the most intriguing features of Surrealism is that it plays havoc with time and place. The paintings of Leonora Carrington, who counted among the movement’s ranks before she died in 2011, could have been conceived in almost any historic moment and any locale inside or outside the imagination. Likewise, in her writings, Carrington’s evocations of madness, clarity of detail, and descriptions of internal terrors [read more]


Los Angeles Times           May 5, 2017

Leonora Carrington, the surrealist storytelling genius you've never heard of

Joy Press

Painter and storyteller Leonora Carrington was the kind of wild, visionary character who ought to be emblazoned on our cultural memory. Instead, she's almost invariably relegated to footnote status, as a muse to Max Ernst and the Surrealists, a marginal figure in the grand narratives of other geniuses. [read more]


Broadly, vice.com           April 12, 2017

The Forgotten Surrealist Painter Who ‘Didn’t Have Time to Be Anyone’s Muse’

Nel Dahl

By the time she was 30, the formidable painter and writer Leonora Carrington had had an affair with Max Ernst, endured a nervous breakdown, been forcibly installed in a mental institution, fled to Mexico, and written a harrowing memoir about madness... [read more]

The Village Voice           April 12,2017

The Wildly Surrealist Stories of Leonora Carrington

Carol Cooper

April 6, 2017, marked the centennial of artist and writer Leonora Carrington’s birth. A British-born textile heiress who ran away from her parents, her inheritance, and bourgeois conformity to join the Surrealist carnival in Paris at the age of twenty, Carrington proceeded, like many iconoclastic Surrealist women, to build a legendary life around her own imagination. Although American biographers, art galleries, and museum curators have been raising. [read more]