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Leonora Carrington was born into an upper-middle-class family on April 6, 1917, in Chorley, Lancashire, northern England. She started her artistic career at a young age, first approaching painting during a trip to Florence. Upon her return to England in 1936, she moved to London, where she attended the Chelsea School of Art and took painting courses from Amédée Ozenfant at the Academy that bore his name. The following year, when she was nineteen, she met Max Ernst, who was then forty-six. Together, they went to Paris, where she was introduced to the protagonists of Surrealism, including André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and Jean Arp. 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 onset of World War II.
During the war, Ernst was held as a prisoner in France because of his German citizenship, and Carrington fled to Spain, where she suffered a serious mental breakdown and was confined in a mental asylum. Her experiences there were later recounted in the book Down Below (1944), which André Breton encouraged her to write. She continued to write, developing a personal linguistic style that was inspired by the hallucinatory themes and dreamlike visions of Surrealism. In America she became an important figure in the world of the exiled Surrealists, a muse of sorts who inspired many painters.
After the war she married the diplomat Renato Leduc, and together they moved first to New York and then to Mexico, where she was to stay for more than forty years. Mexico was the ideal place for the development of Carrington’s style. It was a country of enigmatic and mythological characters that were linked to both an archaeological past and a deeply religious and superstitious culture. Despite her European origins, Carrington is recognized as a major figure in Latin-American Surrealism. Leonora Carrington died in Mexico City on May 25, 2011.