Artist Feature: Leonora Carrington and the Necessity of Art – Binita Gupta ’20

“There are things that are not sayable. That’s why we have art.” -Leonora Carrington

In just two simple sentences, Leonora Carrington’s statement beautifully captures the essence and the necessity of art. Carrington, a Surrealist artist, first was introduced to the world of Surrealism after reading a copy of Herbert Read’s book Surrealism. Through works such as Crookhey Hall, Carrington worked to establish a space for female artists in the Surrealist space. However, Carrington’s works also sought to provoke conversation about mental illness by depicting powerful and poignant images inspired by her own personal emotional struggles and experiences. Her color lithography Crookhey Hall shows almost-ghostlike figures escaping a haunting building, possibly inspired by her own experiences in an asylum. This work is one of many of hers that is currently featured in the Princeton University Art Museum’s exhibition States Of Health: Visualizing Illness and Healing, one that seeks to feature artists’ own experiences with mental and emotional health.

Crookhey Hall, 1987. Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011.

Along with Crookhey Hall, Carrington’s Bird Bath is on display at the museum. The institution of Crookhey Hall also appears in the painting in the background, representing the importance of the role of the asylum in Carrington’s artistic journey.

Bird Bath, 1978. Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011.

Carrington’ work also focused to illuminate the role of women in the artistic world, and how her own emotional and mental health journey was influenced by her relationship with the female body. Carrington’s contributions to the world of Surrealism and to the discussion of an ongoing conversation about mental health from a female perspective have been invaluable, and the intimacy, mystery, and ambiguity presented in her paintings are irrevocably thought-provoking.