The subject of siblings, which Leonora Carrington addresses in Brothers, is not an isolated theme in her oeuvre. That Carrington explored it on several occasions throughout the childhood of her two sons, Gabriel (b. April 14, 1946) and Pablo (b. November 14, 1947), is also no coincidence. Born sixteen months apart to the day, they grew up as close as fraternal twins. And although each was very much an individual, separate and apart, following Pablo's birth, Carrington painted them mostly together as a pair until their adolescence, when each went his own way.
Carrington did not produce formal portraits of the boys. Rather, from witnessing their reactions as participants of events or narratives, she portrayed them in each composition within a context. Since imagination in childhood is more vivid and free from inhibitions, Carrington took note how their internal reality accessed worlds with which she had remained familiar, and allowed it to influence how she created their portraits, most of which were done during those magic years. The paintings often transmit, in fairytale-like scenes, her fascination with them and their activities, which she quietly observed.
Again the Gemini Are in the Orchard, 1947, Leonora Carrington's earliest documented work referring directly to her two sons, was painted shortly after Pablo's birth and is by far the busiest and most complex composition alluding to the boys that she would create. Carrington created it as her exhibition at Pierre Matisse's gallery in New York was dawning. When Matisse requested that she show up for the vernissage, she--half-humorously, half-seriously-replied: "I can't promise because with two babies I am very busy plus my life is very disorganized. I always seem to be washing bottles, changing diapers plus making baby food...I haven't been out of these four bloody walls in the last two years...." Overnight, Carrington's life had become ruled by the overwhelming experience of caring for a toddler and a newborn, which she transmits in the painting, where not one, but five sets of twins have taken over an orchard. But, as the boys passed that early stage of development, which kept Carrington in a frenzy, her portraits of them would become quieter, more reflective.
In 1952, while she and the boys, now five and six, were vacationing in France, they stayed at Pierre Loeb's tiny country home; and in Darvault, 1952, the serene painting that Carrington produced that summer, she portrayed herself with the boys on the grounds of a castle, speaking quietly with them of the time when they would be reunited with their father. (The imagined scene is portrayed in the distance.) After their return to Mexico, in And then, we saw the daughter of the Minotaur!, 1953, wearing hooded capes, the boys stand passively opposite the Minotaur, who sits at a table entertaining guests as they are surprised by the unexpected appearance of its daughter.
On the surface, Brothers, 1953, belies its simple composition displaying various animals from Egyptian mythology. As in Gemini, the affectionate, playful interaction between three pairs of personages sets them apart within the composition, compared with other figures that stand alone. The image is one of harmonious interconnectedness. On the back of the yellow and brown seated mother jackal, on the lower left of the composition, two of the deep black jackals stand on their back legs as one reaches out to touch the other's shoulder. Above the head of the mother, and suspended in midair, two small, nondescript animals appear to be having a dialogue; and to their right, two larger birds are being playful with each other. Carrington tends to prefer animals, which she respects, not only for being attuned to their instincts without twisting them as humans do, but also for being natural in their approach to life, as she taught her sons to be as they were growing up.
Salomon Grimberg, Dallas, Texas, March, 16, 2007.