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Bride of the Wind

In the unique intimacy that united them, this was Max Ernst’s, or Loplop’s, name for Leonora Carrington, an English artist and exponent of the surrealism, whose work has recently seen a revival, but which was originally produced many years ago.

She, a runaway horse or sometimes a hyena… Her whole oeuvre is marked by fabulous characters, a condensation of human and animal forms, which feature in both her pictorial and literary work.

“Who is the bride of the wind?” asked Max Ernst.

In her memoir, Down Below,[1] Leonora leaves us a kind of “stormy account of her own descent into madness”. She wrote it in four days in the summer of 1943, three years after being admitted to a hospital in Santander, after being declared “incurably insane” at twenty-two.

What does she tell us in her Memoirs? “I began gathering a week ago the threads which might have led me across the initial border of Knowledge. I must live through that experience all over again, because (…) I believe (…) [it] will be of help in my journey beyond that frontier by keeping me lucid and by enabling me to put on and to take off at will the mask which will be my shield against the hostility of Conformism”. This is the function of writing. This is not the moment that she chooses as the first point of her spinning, her weaving; it is the moment when Max Ernst, her beloved, was sent to a concentration camp, in May 1940. In her memoir, she testifies to a fierce rupture at the level of her body a feeling of dissolution, fragmentation, decomposition, and a push to the cosmic One that makes her indispensable for the constitution of the Whole. She is the one chosen to save the world from war, a certainty that cost her several years of confinement and escape. She refused to speak about this part of her life in the interviews that she conducted in Mexico, after having being consecrated as “the last exponent of surrealism”, or “the surrealist’s muse”. In 1993, eighteen years before her death in 2011, she claimed that she had never been properly understood, “the idea of being a muse is based on Greek gods, but I think of muses as women who darn socks or clean the kitchen. Who was Dostoevsky’s muse? His epilepsy perhaps? I prefer to be treated as what I am: an artist”.[2] Can we say that the artist was Leonora’s invention when faced with that real that left her without masks?


Betina Ganim

Partner of the Barcelona headquarters of CdC-ELP.

(Translation: Philip Dravers)

[1] Carrington, L., Down Below, New York, NYRB Classics, 1988.

[2] http://elpais.com/diario/1993/04/18/cultura/735084001_850215.html