Leonora Carrington

English / Mexican (1917 - 2011)
Leonora Carrington Portrait of Max Ernst About 1939 © Estate of Leonora Carrington. All rights reserved. Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London 2022.


Born 1917
Died 2011
Nationalities English
Death place Mexico

Born into a wealthy family, Carrington was brought up to mingle with the aristocracy and marry ‘well’. Fiercely independent; she had other ideas. Carrington studied painting in London and in June 1937 met the Surrealist artist Max Ernst. She had only just turned twenty, and he was forty-six and on his second marriage. They immediately started a relationship, and she followed him to Paris where she met many of the Surrealists. In 1938, with war looming, Carrington and Ernst moved to Saint-Martin d’Ardèche, near Avignon. Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Ernst, who was German, was imprisoned as an enemy alien and Carrington fled France for Spain. While there she suffered a breakdown and ended up in a psychiatric institute in Santander. Her experiences there became the subject of her short story, Down Below, which blends fact and fiction. After her release, Carrington fled to New York before settling in Mexico where she continued to work until her death. Although she resisted interpretation of her work, Carrington’s painting and writing contain a powerful personal symbolism, often employing the horse as an alter-ego. Her childhood and the folk tales told to her by her Irish mother influenced her work; along with her experiences with Ernst and the Surrealists and her time spent in Mexico. However, the blending of these influences remains uniquely her own, and both her writing and painting continue to inspire artists and writers.

Glossary terms

Glossary terms


A literary and artistic movement that sought to challenge conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, invoking the power of dreams and elements of chance. It is now regarded as one of the most radical movements of the twentieth century.


Surreal Encounters | Collecting the Marvellous
  • Ended Sun 11 Sep 2016
New Arrivals | From Salvador Dalí to Jenny Saville
  • Ended Sun 12 Feb 2023