Leonor Fini: Eccentric Bohemian

Posted by: Roy Wilbur

The following are excerpts from an article by Joseph Nechvatal that appeared on Hyperallergic.com.

This feminist icon is often remembered for being passed over by the infamous Surrealist phallocracy, principally due to André Breton’s misogyny. Breton viewed Fini (as he did Jacqueline Lamba, his wife and inspiration for his L’Amour fou) as a femme enfant whose lucid madness — that which provides naïve access to the unconscious — made her the ideal conduit for the male artist. But in the wall of photographs included in Cherchez la Femme: Portraits réels et imaginaires at Galerie Minsky, Fini looks confident, daring even, and sure enough of herself to resist such a subservient position. But as we know, photographs can be deceiving.

Although her eccentric manner of presenting herself has often overshadowed her quixotic paintings and drawings, the Argentinian-born artist’s fearless, vivacious, and flamboyant creative fire is currently the subject of enthusiastic reevaluation in some circles. Frequently labeled a Surrealist, even though she was never an official member of the movement, Fini was known for fantasy Gothic paintings that explore female sexuality and power, such as “Sphinx Amoureux” (1942), which shows a male nude lying limp in the arms of a Fini-headed sphinx. She frequently portrayed men as passive and, sometimes, androgynous figures, as in her “Hermès” (1932), an oil painting of the god of transitions and boundaries.

In many of Fini’s most compelling works, the female figure takes the form of a sphinx, often with the face of the artist. Other recurring themes of her work include anthropomorphism, wild-haired womanliness, uncertain space, and the horse as a symbol of free sexuality. Yet even as she was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s pivotal Fantastic Art Dada Surrealism exhibition, her painting style remained problematic to pigeonhole…

…Fini first became know (and photographed) due to her erotic and somewhat frightening eccentricity, which she exhibited with her costume-like clothing and theatrical behavior. Her wild lifestyle, open bisexuality, and infamous ménage à trois relationships shocked even the Parisian café society. Known far and wide for this flamboyant bohemian lifestyle, in 1939 she curated an exhibition of surrealist furniture for her childhood friend (and fledgling gallerist) Leo Castelli.

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Image courtesy of museorevoltella.it


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