Leonora Carrington was born into an upper-middle-class family on April 6, 1917, in Chorley, United Kingdom. She started her artistic career at a young age, learning the basic notions of painting during a trip to Florence. After returning to England in 1936, she moved to London, where she attended the Chelsea School of Arts and took painting courses from Amédée Ozenfant at the Ozenfant Academy. The following year, at the age of nineteen, she met Max Ernst, who was then forty-six. Together they went to Paris, where she was introduced to the the main figures of Surrealism, including Jean Arp, André Breton, and Yves Tanguy. Ernst and Carrington settled in Paris at rue Jacob, not far from Pablo Picasso’s house, and then moved to Saint-Martin d’Ardèche, where they stayed until the beginning of World War II.

During the war, Ernst was held prisoner in France because of his German citizenship, and Carrington fled to Spain, where she suffered a mental breakdown and was confined to a mental asylum. The experience was later recounted in her book Down Below (1944), which Breton encouraged her to write. She continued to write, developing a personal style that was inspired by the hallucinatory themes and dreamlike visions of Surrealism. In the United States she became an important figure among exiled Surrealists, a muse of sorts who inspired many painters.

After the war she married diplomat Renato Leduc, and moved first to New York and then to Mexico, where she lived for more than forty years. Mexico was the ideal place for the development of Carrington’s art, a country full of enigmatic and mythological themes linked to its archaeological past and to a deeply religious and superstitious culture. Despite her European origins, today Carrington is recognized as a major figure in Latin American Surrealism. Leonora Carrington died in Mexico City on May 25, 2011.