Leonora Carrington

Portrait of Max Ernst

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About this artwork

Leonora Carrington first met and fell in love with the surrealist artist Max Ernst at a dinner party in London in 1937. She had just turned twenty and he was forty-six and on his second marriage. They immediately started a relationship and Carrington followed Ernst to Paris where she met many of the Surrealists. In 1938 they moved to the village of Saint-Martin d’Ardèche, near Avignon, where this painting was made. In it Ernst is shown holding a lantern containing a tiny horse. Horses often appear in Carrington’s early paintings and short stories, acting as her alter-ego. The meaning is ambiguous: the horse could be guiding Ernst forward, or could be imprisoned and at his mercy. The painting captures some of the ambivalence in their relationship at the time. The outbreak of the war effectively brought their relationship to an end. Ernst, who was German, was imprisoned as an enemy alien, and Carrington fled France for Spain, suffering a breakdown and ending up in an asylum. Eventually, both escaped to New York where they exchanged portraits of each other, with Carrington presenting this work to Ernst.

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Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington

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Event type Lectures & talks
  • Modern Two
  • Thursday 2 April, 2.30-3.30pm, repeated Saturday 4 April, 2.30-3.30pm
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