So, the other day in my treasure searching, I stumbled across a piece of pottery that made me stop. Let me preface that I come across hundreds of vases/bowls/weird ashtrays daily. This particular piece wasn't jaw-dropping, but it was different. The person selling it just had it listed as a special piece of "mid-century pottery". It was simply signed, "Leonora". The name completely intrigued me and I wanted to know more about this mystery woman. I began diving into my research. It's an unusual name so it didn't take me long to find artist, Leonora Carrington. How have I not heard about this woman? I'm embarrassed to say, I graduated with an art degree and somehow she slipped thru the cracks. But now, I'm hooked. The more I read, the more fascinating she became and I believed her story was worth sharing. (I will not do this story justice. It is much more tragic and complex than the short version I share.)
Leonora, was born in England in 1917 to a wealthy family. Educated by tutors, nuns, and such, she became rebellious and was expelled from two schools due to her "eccentricity". Awesome. I like her already. With little support from her family to pursue an artist's career, she set out on her own. Fast forward to 1936 (only 19) she was introduced to Max Ernst's work at the International Surrealist Exhibition and instantly became hooked. As fate would have it, a year later, she would meet the 46 year old, at a party. He divorces his wife. They move to France. They collaborate. Complexities ensued. Are you keeping up? Leonora, dove straight into the Surrealist Paris life. It's been noted that one time she sat at a restaurant table and covered her feet with mustard, and served cold tapioca dyed with squid ink to guests as caviar. Visitors to the rue Jacob might wake up in the morning to a breakfast of omelette full of their own hair which she had cut while they slept.
Soon afterwards, War World II (stupid war) happens and her lover and companion, Max, a german, was arrested by French authorities for being considered a "hostile alien". Seriously? Hostile? Come on....What about the love story and making beautiful art?!? I digress. So you think it gets better and they meet up again to continue their love affair? I'm going to disappoint you.
After Ernst was arrested by the French Gestapo he managed to escape, with the help from this lovely lady, Peggy Guggenheim. As you can imagine, after his arrest, Leonora was devastated. At 23, alone, and abroad she recalls, “I wept for several hours, down in the village, and then I went up again to my house, where for 24 hours I indulged in voluntary vomiting induced by drinking orange blossom water and interrupted by a short nap.”. It was there she developed paralyzing anxiety and had a mental breakdown in front of the British Embassy. Cue, unsupportive parents. Not knowing what to do with their heartbroken daughter, they institutionalized her. And what better way to cure a broken heart than convulsive shock therapy and hallucinatory drugs. After her treatment, Leonora, ran away and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy. In the meantime, Ernst made his way to the United States and fell in love (and later married) Peggy Guggenheim. Side note: It's hard to hate Peggy so much when you know she helped so many artists, right?
Later, Carrington, would eventually move to New York for a brief time and then settle in Mexico. It was there that she not only continued her painting, but she created tapestries, sculptures, ceramics, stories, and poetry as well.
SO! Back to my pottery. Could it be? A rare Leonora Carrington piece of ceramic history? The short version is, I don't know. I might not ever know. I was outbid on the piece and it is owned by someone else who surely was captured by it as much as I was. It would have been a beautiful piece, regardless of it's provenance but it's nice to think I had a chance to own a part of this woman's history. No matter what it was, I'm thrilled I learned about this woman and am familiar with the phenomenal art she produced as one of the leading surrealist painters of her time.
Update: The piece in question is actually by artist Leonora Morrow. She was a flower arranger that could not find adequate pots for her arrangements. Thanks for clarifying Jesse!