- Title: MEXICO: Artist Leonora Carrington's inner rebel won't fade
- Date: 19th November 2007
- Summary: BOOKCASE BRASS STATUE
- Embargoed: 4th December 2007 12:00
- Location: Mexico
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,People
- Reuters ID: LVA7Q3Q8M3ATY00OL8J8YZHU8XME
- Story Text: Rare interview with renowned surrealist artist Leonora Carrington, who resides in Mexico City.
A troublesome beauty turned Surrealist who sulked in a tiara before a king and scandalously eloped with fellow artist Max Ernst is still a rebel now aged 90 and living in a Mexico City back street.
English painter Leonora Carrington has lost some of the wild streak that saw her shock the 1930s Paris art set, seduce the much older Ernst and cross the Atlantic to escape her enraged father.
Slim, elegant and agile as a woman half her age, Carrington was back in the limelight last month when Mexican intellectuals arranged a tribute to her life as a new exhibition of her sculptures opened in Mexico City. Magical and mysterious surrealist brass figures and one painting are on display.
But she's as mischievous and non-conformist as ever as she potters about her dingy townhouse.
She is photographed here with her son, Pablo Weisz Carrington, who is married and lives in Mexico. She has another son called Gabriel Weisz, who is also married and resides in the U.S. They are a product of her marriage to Hungarian photographer Chiki Weisz and both inherited a flair for art and poetry.
Although she has lived in Mexico for 60 years, Carrington's deep theatrical voice betrays her upper-class northern English roots. She rebelled against her stern Catholic upbringing and got thrown out of two convent boarding schools.
"My mother was Irish, from southern Ireland. It's like Mexico, the same. People are just as boozy," she says in her spartan kitchen over tea and cigarettes.
She described how she was dragged to a debutantes' ball and presented to King George V in an agonizingly tight ostrich feather tiara that she threatened to rip off.
Against the wishes of her authoritarian father she studied art in Italy and yearned for a career as a painter.
Dazzled after meeting Ernst in London, she stole away to Paris at 19 and hung out with the German painter and other Surrealists like Salvador Dali and Andre Breton. She studied figurative painting and gained notoriety as a wild child who stripped at parties and played impish pranks.
Captivated by his new muse, Ernst, 46, left his wife and eloped with Carrington to a cottage in the south of France, prompting her father to disinherit her.
But she has moved on and does not worry about her past
"No, because I think that when things are over, I think you have to make shift with what goes on at the present. I'm 90, so I'm not going to bother with how I was at 19. If I started worrying about all the stupid things I did, I would be really miserable," says Carrington, whose is known as much for her colorful past as for being a pillar of Surrealist art.
Carrington's ghoulish portrayal of weird mythical creatures that reflect the Gaelic legends her Irish nanny read to her, amazed critics and spawned exhibitions from Paris to Tokyo. She was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
She says art today lacks a little of the wild creativity of the Surrealists as they cooked up ideas back in Les Deux Magots cafe that would revolutionize art.
"I don't think imagination is getting any stronger or any more vivid. Vivid is a better word, in painting from what I've seen."
Her 1963 "Sueno de Sirenas" painting of Mexican actress Maria Felix fetched $609,600 at auction this year -- a price that would have stunned her father who said all artists lived in garrets and then died of starvation.
Carrington sold most of her work years ago for a lot less.
She likes Mexico and thinks that Mexican artists are very talented.
"I think it's a very interesting country. I think there've been very good artists in the past and in the present. I think it's a very beautiful country."
Her acclaim in Britain, where the Tate gallery has just two of her drawings, is slowly catching up with her fame in Mexico. She does not like giving opinions on other artists.
"I don't like giving opinions on other artists. If somebody asked you opinions about people doing the same job as you, would you give opinions? I'm in the same situation, I don't give opinions on other artists, good, bad or indifferent."
Carrington's affair with Ernst, a Jew, fell apart when World War II broke out and he was arrested by the French as an enemy alien. She fled to Spain, had a breakdown and was placed in a brutal mental asylum which inspired a grim novel.
"I really left because I was frightened about the Nazis, the Germans, because they assassinated all of the Surrealists they found. They were terrible, the Germans."
Thwarting her family's attempts to bring her home, she married a Mexican diplomat to get papers, boarded a boat to New York, then traveled to Mexico where she befriended artists Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo and began painting in earnest.
Alone with a maid since her Hungarian Surrealist photographer husband died this year, Carrington spends her days rereading old books and mostly shuns the public eye.
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