Leonor Fini


Leonor Fini (30 August 1907 – 18 January 1996) was an Argentine-Italian surrealist painter, designer, illustrator, and author, known for her depictions of powerful and erotic women.[1]

Leonor Fini
Leonor Fini, 1936
Born(1907-08-30)30 August 1907
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died18 January 1996(1996-01-18) (aged 88)
Paris, France
  • Argentina
  • Italy
Known forPainting

Early life edit

Fini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Malvina Braun Dubich (born in Trieste, with German, Slavic and Venetian ancestry) and Herminio Fini (with ancestry from Benevento, Italy). Herminio was a handsome and very wealthy man, but also tyrannical with extreme religious views. He made his young wife very unhappy and, within eighteen month's of Leonor's birth, she fled back to Trieste with the child.[2] Leonor was raised there[3] and she would be expelled from various schools for being rebellious. As a Catholic, Herminio refused to give Malvina a divorce, which was only granted to her in 1919 through an Italian court. Custody battles often involved Fini and her mother in sudden flights and disguises.[4] In her early teens, an eye disease forced her to wear bandages on both eyes. After recovering, she decided to become an artist.[5]

She moved to Milan at the age of 17 and a gallery in Trieste exhibited one of her paintings that year. She thereafter received a commission to paint portraits from dignitaries in Milan where she had her first one-woman show at the Galerie Barbaroux in 1929.[5] She moved to Paris in 1931 when she was 24.[6] There, she became acquainted with Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico, who influenced much of her work. She also came to know Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, Georges Bataille, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Picasso, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, and Salvador Dalí. She traveled Europe by car with Mandiargues and Cartier-Bresson where Cartier-Bresson took a photograph, one of his best known, of her naked in a pool with a shaved pubis. The photograph of Fini sold in 2007 for $305,000 - the highest price paid at auction for one of Cartier-Bresson's works to that date.[7]

Career edit

Fini had no formal artistic training, but grew up surrounded by the Renaissance and Mannerist styles of Italy.[8]

Her first major exhibition was in 1936 at New York's Julian Levy Gallery.[7] Though Fini is part of the pre-war generation of Parisian artists often overlooked in favour of male contemporaries, she was very important in the Surrealist movement.[9] Fini never officially joined it though she did show her work alongside other Surrealist artists.[10] She was included in Peggy Guggenheim's 1943 show Exhibition by 31 Women at the Art of This Century gallery in New York.[11]

She worked for Elsa Schiaparelli in the late thirties and early forties and designed the bottle for the perfume "Shocking", basing the shape on Mae West's torso.[12] Fini networked into theatre circles when she started taking on costume design projects in the 1930s as a source of extra income. She also illustrated books and some of her best-known works in this area are her drawings for a 1944 edition of the Marquis de Sade's ''Juliette.'[13] Between 1944 and 1972 Fini’s main work was in costume design for film, theatre, ballet and opera including, famously, the first ballet performed by Roland Petit's Ballet de Paris, Les Demoiselles de la nuit, featuring a young Margot Fonteyn in 1948. In 1949 Frederick Ashton choreographed a ballet she had conceptualized, Le Rêve de Leonor ("Leonor's Dream"), with music by Benjamin Britten, and Fini designed the hybrid human-animal costumes for it as well. In 1959, Fini made a fairy tale-inspired painting called Les Sorcières for the Mexican actress, María Félix.[14] She also designed the costumes for two films: Renato Castellani's Romeo and Juliet (1954) and John Huston's A Walk with Love and Death (1968). In London, she exhibited paintings at the Kaplan gallery in 1960 and at the Hanover Gallery in 1967. A 1986 retrospective at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris featured over 260 of her works in a variety of media including watercolours and drawings, theatre/costume designs, paintings and masks. In the 1970s, she wrote three novels: Rogomelec,[15] Moumour; Contes pour enfants velu and Oneiropompe.[16] Many of Fini's paintings featured women in positions of power or in very sexualised contexts. Madonna used the imagery of one of the exhibits, Le Bout du Monde, in her video, "Bedtime Story" in 1994. In the spring of 1987, Fini had an exhibition at London's Editions Graphique's gallery.[17] The San Francisco Modern Museum of Art also featured her work in an exhibition entitled "Women, Surrealism, and Self-representation" in 1999.[18]

Fini's work often included sphinxes, werewolves, and witches.[19] Most of the characters in her art were female or androgynous.[20]

She painted portraits of Jean Genet, Anna Magnani, Jacques Audiberti, Alida Valli, Jean Schlumberger and Suzanne Flon as well as many other celebrities and wealthy visitors to Paris. Her friends included Jean Cocteau, Giorgio de Chirico, and Alberto Moravia, Fabrizio Clerici and most of the other artists and writers inhabiting or visiting Paris.

Fini illustrated about 50 books, including ''Satyricon'' and works by Jean Genet and Charles Baudelaire. She illustrated many works of classic authors and poets, including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Shakespeare, as well as texts by new writers. Leonor Fini illustrated books by Lise Deharme, including Le Poids d’un oiseau in 1955 and Oh! Violette ou la Politesse des Végétaux in 1969.[5] She was very generous with her illustrations and donated many drawings to writers to help them get published. She is, perhaps, best known for her graphic illustrations for the sexually explicit Histoire d'O.

Personal life edit

Fini was openly bisexual and lived in a long-term polyamorous relationship.[21] She told Whitney Chadwick in 1982: "I am a woman, therefore I have had the 'feminine experience', but I am not a lesbian".[2] She also said: "Marriage never appealed to me, I've never lived with one person. Since I was 18, I've always preferred to live in a sort of community – a big house with my atelier and cats and friends, one with a man who was rather a lover and another who was rather a friend. And it has always worked."[22]

Married once, for a brief period, to Federico Veneziani, they were divorced after she met the Italian Count, Stanislao Lepri, who abandoned his diplomatic career shortly after meeting Fini and lived with her thereafter. She met the Polish writer Konstanty Jeleński, known as Kot in Rome in January 1952. She was delighted to discover that he was the illegitimate half-brother of Sforzino Sforza [fr], who had been one of her favorite lovers. Kot joined Fini and Lepri in their Paris apartment in October 1952 and the three remained inseparable until their deaths.[23] She later employed an assistant to join the household, which he described as "a little bit of prison and a lot of theatre". One of his jobs was to look after her beloved Persian cats. Over the years she acquired as many as 23 of them; they shared her bed and were allowed to roam the dining-table at mealtimes. The 'inner circle' expanded to include the American artist, Richard Overstreet [fr] and the Argentine poet Juan-Bautista Pinero.

Books in English translation edit

Rogomelec (Paris, Stock, 1979). English translation by William Kulik and Serena Shanken Skwersky (Cambridge MA: Wakefield Press, 2020).

Legacy edit

A biographical song about Leonor Fini's life, "Leonor", is featured on Welsh artist Katell Keineg's 1997 second album, Jet.[24]

Leonor Fini Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings by Richard Overstreet and Neil Zukerman. Available in February, 2021 published by Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich.

In 2018, Fini was the subject of a short documentary, Gloria's Call by Cheri Gaulke.

Retrospectives edit

Pourquoi pas?, Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden. January 31, 2014 - May 11, 2014[25]

Filmography edit

  • Leonor Fini, documentary by Chris Vermorcken (1987). Produced by Films Dulac and distributed by RM Associates.

References edit

  1. ^ "Léonor Fini | Surrealist Painter & Argentine Artist | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Sphinx : the life and art of Leonor Fini | WorldCat.org". search.worldcat.org. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  3. ^ Heller, Nancy (1987). Women artists : an illustrated history. Internet Archive. New York : Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-0-89659-748-8.
  4. ^ Harris, Ann Sutherland (1976). Women artists, 1550-1950. Internet Archive. Los Angeles : Los Angeles County Museum of Art ; New York : distributed by Random House. ISBN 978-0-87587-073-1.
  5. ^ a b c Aspley, Keith (2010). Historical dictionary of surrealism. Internet Archive. Lanham [Md.] : Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5847-3.
  6. ^ Folley, Sian (3 November 2014). ""The Problem of Woman": Female Surrealists and their Unique Brand of Mystery". Sotherby's. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Leonor Fini at CFM Gallery". www.cfmgallery.com. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Leonor Fini Paintings, Bio, Ideas". The Art Story. Archived from the original on 17 November 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  9. ^ Adrian-Diaz, Jenna (5 December 2018). "Meet Leonor Fini, the Surrealist Sidelined for Subverting Gender Norms". Vulture. Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  10. ^ Uglow, Jennifer (1999). The Macmillan dictionary of women's biography. Internet Archive. London : Papermac. ISBN 978-0-333-72573-3.
  11. ^ Modern women : women artists at the Museum of Modern Art. Internet Archive. New York : Museum of Modern Art : Distributed in the United States and Canada by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. 2010. ISBN 978-0-87070-771-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. ^ "LEONOR FINI - BOTTLE FOR PERFUME "SHOCKING" BY SCHIAPARELLI 1937". Maison Schiaparelli. Archived from the original on 17 November 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Leonor Fini in The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism". worldcat.org. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  14. ^ Weida, Courtney Lee. "Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Leonor Fini: Feminist Lessons in Chimerism, Corporeality, Cuisine, and Craft. Visual Culture & Gender". Visual Culture and Gender. Archived from the original on 17 November 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  15. ^ Fino, Leonor (2020). "Rogomelec | WorldCat.org". worldcat.org. William T. Kulik and Serena Shanken Skwersky, translators. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  16. ^ "L'oneiropompe | WorldCat.org". search.worldcat.org. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  17. ^ Webb, Peter (1986). "Leonor Fini Retrospective". The Burlington Magazine. 128 (1002): 699–700. JSTOR 882766.
  18. ^ Rapoport, Sonya; Williams, Barbara Lee (1999). "Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art". Leonardo. 32 (4): 333–335. doi:10.1162/leon.1999.32.4.333c. S2CID 191639576.
  19. ^ McDermon, Daniel (6 November 2018). "Sex, Surrealism and de Sade: The Forgotten Female Artist Leonor Fini". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 June 2022. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  20. ^ Grew, Rachael V. (2010), Sphinxes, witches and little girls: reconsidering the female monster in the art of Leonor Fini, Longborough University: Inter-Disciplinary Press, hdl:2134/20405, ISBN 9781904710950, archived from the original on 17 November 2023, retrieved 17 November 2023
  21. ^ Scott, Tor (8 March 2019). "Leonor Fini – Author and Artist". The Heroine Collective. Archived from the original on 19 December 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  22. ^ Frank, Priscilla (30 July 2015). "7 Forgotten Women Surrealists Who Deserve To Be Remembered". HuffPost. Archived from the original on 17 November 2023. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  23. ^ "Sphinx : the life and art of Leonor Fini | WorldCat.org". search.worldcat.org. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  24. ^ "PRESS QUOTES". KATELL KEINEG. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Uppgörelser med könsroller och sårig historia". DN.SE. 6 February 2014.

Further reading edit

  • Webb, Peter. Sphinx: The Life and Art of Leonor Fini. New York, Vendome Press. 2009. ISBN 978-0-86565-255-2
  • Zukerman, Neil. "Leonor Fini - La Vie Idéale". New York, CFM Gallery. 1997. 0-972-8620-2-1
  • Zukerman, Neil "Leonor Fini - Artist as Designer" New York, CFM Gallery. 1992

External links edit

  • Kent, Sarah (30 October 2009). "Leonor Fini: surreal thing". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 November 2009.
  • Her work at CFM Gallery
  • Biography at the Gallery Minsky (and pictures)
  • Leonor Fini on Wikiart.org
  • Ten Dreams Galleries