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Podcast: The surreal and defiant life of Leonora Carrington

Posted on 08 Jun 2023

In this episode, we trace the richly varied life of the pioneering Surrealist painter, exploring the extraordinary spaces that shaped and haunted her art, from her childhood at Crookhey Hall to her French hideaway with Max Ernst, and her Mexico City sanctuary.

Leonora Carrington in her home, 2000. Photograph: Reuters/Alamy.

Joanna Moorhead’s engrossing new biography Surreal Spaces offers an intimate look at the life and art of her late cousin, the pioneering artist Leonora Carrington. Leonora continually defied the expectations of her family and society, turning away from British upper class life and casting away comfort in the name of freedom, declaring that ‘safety, under any circumstances, is an illusion’.

In this episode, we sit down with Joanna to explore the bond she forged with Leonora over five unforgettable years in Mexico City, reflecting on the spaces and locations that infused Leonora’s art.

The journey begins with Leonora’s childhood at Crookhey Hall, a gothic, turreted home whose menacing character influenced her early years. We explore her time in Paris, where she held her own in the cafés of Saint-Germain alongside Picasso, Breton, Duchamp and Dali.

The conversation moves on to the St-Martin d’Ardèche farmhouse Leonora shared with Max Ernst, with whom she enjoyed a profound romantic and creative bond, and where the two artists embedded art into the fabric of their home.

Joanna describes Leonora’s terrifying experiences in a sanatorium in Spain, and finally explores Leonora’s Mexico City home, where she was able to live on her own terms, in ‘the most surreal nation on the planet’.


Our podcasts are also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

This episode was produced and presented by Eliza Apperly and edited by Benjamin Nash.

Discover the book

Surreal Spaces

The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington Joanna Moorhead

Read more


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