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Biography and information

Leonor Fini (Leonor Fini, 08/30/1907, Buenos Aires - 01/18/1996, Paris) - Argentinean by place of birth, Italian by upbringing and temperament, French by place of recognition and flourishing of artistic talent. One of the most prominent women artists of the mid-twentieth century. along with Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Meret Oppenheim and Dorothea Tanning. Fini's art is associated mainly with the Paris school of pre-and post-war avant-garde. In fact, the artist belonged to the circle of surrealists, but she did not rank herself in this direction, preferring to remain outside the frameworks and categories. Contemporary art studies regard many works and methods of Fini's self-representation as anticipation of the aesthetics of the camp - “aestheticization of repulsive”, extreme extravagance, when “nothing is too much”.

Features of the artist Leonor Fini: surrealism, eroticism, adherence to magical realism and symbolism; the dominant character of female images along with the androgynous images of men; portraits and figurative compositions recreating a gloomy somnambulistic world full of surreal plots, semi-fantastic creatures and coded visual metaphors.

The most famous works: "Self-portrait with a Scorpion" (1938), "Figures on the Terrace" (1939), "Alcove" (1941), "Woman Sitting on a Nude Man" (1942), "Ideal Life" (1950); the work of the so-called "Car Cycle" (1960s); "Blind" (1968); "The lesson of botany" (1974); illustrations to the erotic novels of the Marquis de Sade and Pauline Reazh; numerous portraits and self portraits.

The family in which Leonor was born was far from idyllic. The girl's father, an Argentinian with Russian roots, possessed the ways of a tyrant, and an Italian wife with a one-year-old baby in her arms ran away from Buenos Aires to Trieste to her parental family.

By adolescence Fini was distinguished by inquisitiveness, the ability to grasp everything on the fly - and extreme love of freedom. The girl hated dictatorship and dogma, so that at fifteen she parted ways with the school and received all further education from books, in museum halls and at home. She began to draw early, but she did not receive a formal art education, remaining self-taught. Leonor tastes were formed under the influence of Italian mannerism, German and Flemish painting of the XV century, the works of Schiele and Klimt. But the impetus for serious studies of art was, oddly enough, the disease, due to which Leonor had to spend a long time in a dense eye patch. Forced visual starvation awakened fantastic images and visions that nourished all further work Fini.

After her debut at a group exhibition in Trieste, orders for portraits began to arrive for the seventeen-year-old Leonor, and with them the first fees. But the "young, yes, early" girl is cramped within her native walls, she moves to Milan - the center of the cultural life of Italy in those years. An aspiring artist makes acquaintance with the Novecento group, with Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carra. He tries himself by participating in collective expositions, and in 1929 an exhibition opens in Milan's Barbaro Gallery, which presents the works of three painters from Trieste - among them our Leonor.

In 1931, Feeney decides to move to Paris, dazzling and alluring. Bright, temperamental and eccentric Leonor from the first step becomes his among the surrealists. She easily acquires friends and admirers, including Max Ernst, El Salvador and Gala Daly, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Picasso, Paul Eluard, Elsa Schiaparelli, Georges Bataille, Andre Pieira de Mandyarg, Jean Genet and many others. Does not find a common language only with the leader of the surrealist Andre Breton because of his extreme authoritarianism and legendary misogyny. Nevertheless, it takes an active part in all major exhibitions of the movement. The first personal Parisian show of works by Fini took place in 1932 in the halls of the gallery, owned by Jacques Bonjean and his partner, to no one then known young man by the name of Christian Dior.

And in 1936, Fini is recognized overseas: at the invitation of New York art dealer Julien Levy, the artist displays his canvases in his gallery at a joint exhibition in which Max Ernst and American surrealists also participate (later, in 1939 Levi organizes a personal exhibition for Leonor project). In the same year, her work was included in the exposition of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York) “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” along with works by De Chirico, Dali, Ernst and Tanguy.

During the second world Fini leaves for the south, away from the French capital. In Monte-Carlo, Leonor meets Italian diplomat Stanislao Lepri, who becomes her life's companion. True, not the only one - later the Polish publicist Konstantin Yelensky will appear next to him and Leonor ... For now, the lovers are moving to Rome and live there a happy period, unusually productive for Feeney. In 1942-43, the artist participates in exhibitions of the American gallery Peggy Guggenheim, including the project “31 women”, which offers the viewer a female look at the art of surrealism. Brushes Fini owned the first ever erotic depiction of a man, written by a woman (“Woman Sitting on a Naked Man”, 1942).

In 1946, the couple will return to peaceful Paris, where the star Leonor will shine with a new force. In 1951, fate will bring them together with Constantius, and the arisen "triple family union" will exist until death separates them. Leonor will later say that in all this there was a lot of theatricality - however, as well as in all her life, filled with outrage, creativity and passion.

Diversely gifted, for six decades of a creative career, Leonor Feeney has realized her potential not only in easel art forms, but also in set design, subject design, book illustration, costume design for theater, opera, ballet and cinema. The artist enjoyed recognition and popularity, friendship with outstanding contemporaries who adored the subtleties of her intellect and the power of temperament.

Large-scale lifetime retrospectives of Fini’s works were presented in 1965 in Belgium, in 1972 and 1986 in Japan, in 1983 in his native Italy, and in 1986 in Paris. But after the death that followed in 1996, the artist was consigned to oblivion, and only relatively recently a keen interest arose in the name and legacy of Feeney. Today Leonor is called an icon of feminism and even a genius of French surrealism. According to art historians, the artist’s contribution to avant-garde art is still undervalued and awaits its researchers.

The author: Leah Gorodnyanskaya

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