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Surreal Spaces

The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington

Joanna Moorhead


An illustrated biography of the remarkable and pioneering artist Leonora Carrington, told through the houses and locations that had meaning for her and are fundamental to an understanding of her work

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An evocative visual chronicle on the life of Leonora Carrington as seen through interiors, international locations and vintage photographs, this book leads the reader on a personal journey through the many spaces she inhabited and which infused and haunted her art and the people she knew.

Long underrated, Carrington is now considered as one of the vanguard, not only in histories of women artists but also Surrealism; her interests – feminism, ecology and life-enhancing art – are now shared by many. Challenging the conventions of her time, Carrington abandoned family, society and England to embrace new experiences and mix with artists in Europe and America, and to forge her own unique artistic style.

From Lancashire to London, Cornwall to France and Spain, then to Mexico, New York and finally back to Mexico, each place and interior became etched in her memory – whether her grandmother’s kitchen with its giant stove, Parisian cafés, a rural French hideaway, the sanatorium in Santander or her Mexican sanctuary – only to be echoed, sometimes decades later, in her paintings and writings. ‘Houses are really bodies,’ she wrote in her novella The Hearing Trumpet (1974), ‘We connect ourselves with walls, roofs, and objects just as we hang on to our livers, skeletons, flesh and blood streams.’

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'An enjoyable and important account of one of the greatest artists of the surrealist movement whose relevance has only strengthened with time. Moorhead recounts Carrington's life as if a collection of stories, each one building to produce a memorable impression of the eccentric and wonderful Leonora Carrington'
Katy Hessel

'Leonora leaps off the page in this fascinating biography of Britain’s peripatetic Surrealist. Moorhead’s fresh and personal account is every inch as compelling as Carrington’s mesmeric paintings'
Charlotte Mullins

'A spirited account of Carrington’s work and life, with whom the author openly identifies and whose footsteps she has followed with care and imagination'
Matthew Gale, The Art Newspaper

'Carrington’s personal qualities shine through: not just the acute observational powers and sheer wit that suffuse her art – and her extraordinary writing … Moorhead’s account of wandering round her cousin’s apartment after her death is suggestive and moving'
Sunday Telegraph

'A spirited account of Carrington’s work and life, with whom the author openly identifies and whose footsteps she has followed with care and imagination'
The Art Newspaper

'Moorhead’s book is a major sense-making project that unfolds slowly, taking readers vividly – sometimes viscerally – into the places and phases of Carrington’s biography … Surreal Spaces paints a portrait of fragility and strength, passion and determination, and Carrington’s resolute sense of the geographical, artistic, and emotional place she wanted to occupy at every stage of her life'
The Conversation

'Carrington’s zest, her intellectual curiosity and her defiant pursuit of personal autonomy and uncompromising artistic authenticity dazzle at every turn in this evocative, deeply-felt study of the spaces and places of the artist’s life and work … An exquisite contribution to art history and visual culture studies … positions Carrington as a seminal surrealist and celebrates a remarkable life in art and ideas'
The Conversation

'Her cousin examines many of her paintings carefully, unlocking meaning and placing them in context, but it is in her vibrant navigation of the artist’s fascinating life (woefully overlooked) that this book shines'
Country Life

'In Surreal Spaces, we meet an artist who, instead of the insular dream-weaver we might have pictured, is a visionary realist; one who, with dexterity and fidelity, could represent worlds past, present, future and imagined all at once; worlds that seemed, in a meaningful way, to coexist before her'
World of Interiors

'This collection of artworks, anecdotes and unseen photographs documenting the life and travels of the British Surrealist painter has been lovingly compiled by her journalist cousin'
Harper’s Bazaar

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 104

Publication date: 1 June 2023

ISBN: 9780500025512

About the Author

Joanna Moorhead is a writer and the cousin of Leonora Carrington. She is a journalist who writes for the Guardian, the Observer, The Times and many other publications. In 2010 she co-curated the touring exhibition ‘Surreal Friends’ on the work of Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. Her memoir The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington was published in English and Spanish in 2017 (‘as strange and haunting as Leonora Carrington’s surrealist paintings’, Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times). She is the author of eight other books.

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