MEXICO CITY — British-born Leonora Carrington, the Surrealist artist who ran off with Max Ernst and escaped from a mental hospital before fleeing Nazi Europe, has died in Mexico at age 94, officials said Thursday.
Carrington, who became a national treasure in Mexico where her sculptures adorn the capital’s largest avenue, had suffered from a respiratory illness, according to the National Council for Culture and Arts.
Born in Lancashire, England into an aristocratic industrial family on April 6, 1917 at the cusp of the Surrealist movement, Carrington pitched herself headlong into painting at a young age, and survived her contemporaries to become one of the last Surrealists of the era.
At 20 she moved to Paris where she struck up a love affair with Surrealist painter Max Ernst, 26 years her senior. Ernst introduced her to major figures of the art and cultural movement including Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro and Surrealism’s founder Andre Breton.
After Ernst was arrested by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied France in 1939 — he escaped and eventually made his way to the United States — Carrington fell into a deep depression before being committed to a psychiatric hospital in Santander, Spain.
She recounts the experience, in which she was administered powerful drugs that were later banned, in her book 1972 book “Down Below.”
Carrington managed to escape, and in Lisbon she married the Mexican poet and journalist Renato Leduc, who in 1942 took her to Mexico — a place Breton once described as “the most surrealist country in the world.”
She settled there permanently, befriending painter Frida Kahlo and future Nobel laureate Octavio Paz.
Last month in Madrid, the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska published “Leonora,” a fictionalized account of Carrington’s life.
“She was never insane,” Poniatowska told AFP. “She was faced with war and the fools she met who did not understand the dangers of war.”
In 2008 The Guardian posted on its website clips from an interview with Carrington in which she dismissed the idea that artistic ability is something passed from generation to generation.
“It’s not hereditary. It comes from somewhere else,” she told the English daily.
For those intent on intellectualizing her art work, “you’re wasting your time,” she said.
A retrospective exhibition of paintings by Carrington recently opened in Mexico City.