Surreal Spaces: Life & Art of Leonora Carrington

Cover of the new book Surreal Spaces with Leonora sitting cross-legged next to a broom: La Bruja!

DMs on Instagram are mostly scammers, but I check them occasionally anyway because sometimes something great is there — like a message from Thames & Hudson asking if I’d be interested in an advance copy of this book. Yes, please! Like all T&H books it’s gorgeously produced, which allows you to see details in paintings that you might have missed before.

Joanna Moorhead is a cousin of LC, which she discovered belatedly, then made up for lost time by getting to know her fascinating ‘lost’ relative, which she recounted in her previous book, The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington. This volume might be considered a kind of update and expansion of that work, but Moorhead delves much more into the spaces where Carrington lived both in detail and in images. It’s one thing to know that Crookey Hall played a large role in Carrington’s imagination but a real gift to see it inside and out. The inside is much less familiar. Useful too to see that the later home, Hazelwood, is a lot more present in paintings that realised heretofore.

I was so sad not to see the most recent LC exhibit which went from Denmark to Spain and featured works from the Carrington/Ernst house in St Martin d’Ardeche, but there are photos here of the interior which make it so vivid that they sought to make their entire lives art, to live immersed in it. So many photos to provide context: Ernst’s mannequin in the Paris surrealism exhibit inspired by LC; photos of Santander at the time she was incarcerated; that stunning cover image from her year in NYC before heading to Mexico; and more photos of the house in 194 Calle Chihuahua.

I know you probably think there were no surprises in the art, but I don’t recall seeing her painting of her basement flat on Gramercy Park where she lived off and on in the 70s & 80s. It’s a stark zen cell that shows how simply she lived — her art out of sight, the walls unadorned. She took her Buddhist studies seriously.

A beautiful book!

Estudio Leonora