Leonora Carrington’s The Giantess, c 1947. Illustration: Tate
by Chloe Aridjis.
“I am as mysterious to myself as I am mysterious to others,” Leonora Carrington once said in an interview.
Loyal to their creator, the figures in her paintings are similarly hermetic and complex, often poised between what seems like enigma and revelation, envoys of hieroglyphs we can’t quite decipher.
Sometimes the horizon is dominated by a towering figure reminiscent of Bosch or Brueghel, such as her Saint Anthony, a three-headed hermit whose temptation prevails over his solitude, or the moon-faced Giantess, (or The Guardian of the Egg) – the egg from which both life and paintings (one of Leonora’s favourite mediums was egg tempera) are hatched.
She felt equally at home with the fantastical and the quotidian, and roamed freely between the two, scarcely distinguishing between them.
An émigré from the old world to the new, Carrington left wartorn Europe in her early 20s and settled into a relatively peaceful existence in Mexico City, where over the next seven decades she mapped out her own geography.
Much of her universe is populated by oracular animal hybrids, part of an ever-evolving bestiary that originated in her affinity with freer, or feral, spirits and the strong belief that “there are many egos within one person”.