Artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) bucks pressure and tradition to join the surrealist movement.
“Leonora’s parents wanted her to be like every other well-bred English girl. But she was not.” This white girl with Irish heritage doesn’t want to “become a lady.” As a child, she sketches make-believe planets; she’s expelled from boarding school after boarding school. In Italy, she sees Renaissance art in churches and galleries and forges ahead “to paint her own imagined worlds.” She joins the surrealists in London and then France, painting fantastical creatures and women who are not simply “pretty decorations.” When Nazi Germany invades France, Carrington escapes to Mexico (described, alas, as “exotic”), befriends artist Remedios Varo, and continues painting surrealist works about enchanted women, nature, mysticism, and the occult. Hall’s watercolor ink, gouache, and pencil-crayon illustrations feature mild surrealism, far less eerie than Carrington’s. Hall uses sinuous lines abundantly—doorways curve, tree trunks bend—and tints Carrington’s world with greens, golds, and oranges. A few full-bleed spreads are magnificent, including the flight from Nazi Europe, which combines a burning city and a winged creature-ship, and a depiction of Carrington’s late painting of a giantess, for which readers must turn the book sideways. A love affair with surrealist Max Ernst and an early marriage of convenience to escape Europe go unmentioned until the author’s note; Carrington’s mental illness isn’t mentioned anywhere.
An empowering introduction that demands parallel examination of Carrington’s own work. (illustrator’s note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)