We went last night to one of Yinka Shonibare’s Friday evening supper clubs to celebrate the life and work of Leonora Carrington, the beautiful daughter of a Lancashire textile manufacturer, brought up in a turreted Victorian mansion reading Lewis Carroll, sent away to be educated by nuns, and studying art at Miss. Penrose’s Academy in Florence. She returned for her coming out party at the Ritz, but registered first at Chelsea School of Art and then Amédée Ozenfant’s Academy before meeting Max Ernst at a dinner party and eloping to Paris. Ernst was interned as an enemy alien in 1939 and Carrington had a nervous breakdown which led to her being treated in a lunatic asylum in Spain and her first novel which described the experience, Down Below (1944). A marriage of convenience took her to Mexico and she began to exhibit her paintings at the Pierre Matisse gallery in New York after the war.
Marina Warner described how as an undergraduate she had first encountered Leonora Carrington’s work visiting the house of Maurice Cardiff, who had got to know Carrington and bought her work while working for the British Council in Mexico. Warner had visited Carrington in a basement flat in New York in the 1980s, living frugally in spite of owning major works of surrealism in her house in Mexico City, which she travelled to and from by bus. She was already what Warner described as ‘a secret cult figure’. We enjoyed an alchemical feast which included butternut squash in paint tubes:-