Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)
Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

La joie de patinage (The Joy of Skating)

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)
La joie de patinage (The Joy of Skating)
signed and dated ’LEONORA CARRINGTON. 11-12-41.’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.72 x 60.96 cm.)
Painted 11 December 1941 in New York.
Pierre and Alexina Matisse, Paris.
Alexina Duchamp, France.
Pierre-Noël Matisse, Paris (by descent from the above).
By descent from the above to the late owner.

S. Grimberg, “Traveling Toward the Unknown, Leonora Carrington Stopped in New York,” Womens Art Journal, Fall/Winter, 2017, vol. 38, p. 1, no. 2 (illustrated and illustrated in color on cover).
S. van Raay, et. al., Leonora Carrington: Magical Tales, Mexico City, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, 2018, p. 84, no. 16 (illustrated in color).
New York, Art of This Century, Exhibition by 31 Women, 5-31 January 1943.
Post lot text
1 Angélica Abelleyra interviewing the artist between 1993-96 as quoted in “Leonora Carrington: Discovering Diverging Worlds,” in Voices of Mexico 53(Mexico City, 2000): 39.
2 “Leonora Carrington: La novia del viento.” YouTube video, 7:00, “Andrea di Castro,” September 4, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBa5Uy9Yl0I. My translation.
3 Justin Goodman, “Down Below,” Cleaver: Philadelphia’s International Literary Magazine https://www.cleavermagazine.com/down-below-a-memoir-by-leonora-carrington-reviewed-by-justin-goodman/. Accessed May 30, 2020.
4 “Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist.” YouTube video, 60:00, “BBC4,” January 31, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxEF1bjgt5Q&t=1s.
5 “Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist.”
6 Beatriz Espejo, “Leonora Carrington (1917-2011): Lo demonico y lo divino,” Revista de la Universidad de México 89(Mexico City, 2011): 39. “Pude solamente con el karate.” My translation.
7 If the ball took place in 1935 and the book was published in 1936, this statement by Carrington late in life may be a self-conscious reworking of facts, however, Carrington is consistent in the personal details that she shares with her interviewers, straight-forward in accountings, instilling trust. Her hands are obviously empty in the stunning photograph of she and her mother taken at the ball, but one could imagine Carrington stashing the book somewhere. Huxley’s book fittingly champions spirituality and critiques British high society.
8 “Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist.”
9 “Leonora Carrington.” YouTube video, 26:57. “Secretaria de Educación Pública,” May 26, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=321&v=wkKRPPrN5KE&feature=emb_logo.
10 As named by Elena Poniatowska in Chapter 1 “Crookhey Hall” of her novel Leonora, translated by Amanda Hopkinson (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2014).
11 “Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist.”
12 “Leonora Carrington: Britain’s Lost Surrealist,” YouTube video, 9:43. “TateShots,” March 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guit8Yum8q4. Carrington interviewed by her cousin Joanna Moorehead.
13 Paul Laity, “The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead,” The Guardian, April 5, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/05/the-surreal-life-of-leonora-carrington-joanna-moorhead-review.
14 Leonora Carrington, The House of Fear Notes from Down Below (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1988), 118. See Annette Shandler Levitt, “The Bestial Fictions of Leonora Carrington,” Journal of Modern Literature, 20.1(Summer 1996), 65-74 for close analysis of this and other of Carrington’s short stories.
15 This was the first canvas Carrington sold and to Peggy Guggenheim in 1938. See Solomon Grinberg, “Traveling Toward the Unknown: Leonora Carrington Stopped in New York,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall/Winter 2017): 13.
16 Frederick Ashton’s ballet Les Patineurs was first presented at Sadler-Wells Theatre in London in 1937.
17 Max Ernst rescued this painting after his release from Les Milles concentration camp in July of 1940 from the farmhouse in Saint Martin d’Ardèche, had it with him at Bel Air in Marseilles, and must have taken it with him when he left Europe from Lisbon, Portugal for New York City by airplane. By March of 1942 in New York City Ernst exchanged with Carrington his portrait of her Leonora in the Morning Light of 1940 for her Bird Superior: Portrait of Max Ernst. For a detailed account see “Talks and Lectures: Leonora Carrington’s Portrait of Max Ernst.” YouTube video, 46:39. “National Galleries of Scotland,” September 11, 2018.
18 See Leonora Carrington’s account of her experience in her Down Below, first published in French in 1944 and recently published by New York Review Books Classics in 2017.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to Dr. Salomon Grimberg for his assistance cataloguing this work.

I put my being into my painting. For me, the value of a work is the labor it takes to become yourself, making something honest. It’s the work of a lifetime.--Leonora Carrington1
“Can I light your cigarette?” offers the interviewer as he bent forward, Bic lighter in hand. “I prefer to light my own” rebuffed the then-94-year-old artist Leonora Carrington in courteous, yet firm, British-accented English.2 Carrington was her own person always, succinctly described as a “nonconforming feminist.”3 The only daughter of four children born to the Irish Mairi Moorhead and English textile magnate Harold Carrington, she resisted the social mold she was expected to fit into. Her self-described “allergy to cooperation,” got the schoolgirl expelled by the Mother Superior, twice.4 As Carrington recalls, at the convent she was deemed neither “capable of study or play,”5 and had only “managed” with karate.6 When presented as a debutante at the court of King George V at Buckingham Palace, bored, Carrington remembered having spent the evening reading, apropos, the entirety of Aldous Huxley’s novel Eyeless in Gaza.7 Today, her non-compliant behavior might have been named Oppositional Defiant Disorder, but it was her determination and strong sense of self-preservation that supported her life-long artistic production where beast and human commune in imagined worlds.
“Does anyone escape their childhood? I don’t think we do,” Carrington answered her own question.8 Telling of where her child’s imagination resided, in grade school she created a book with lined paper, titling it “Animals of a Different Planit by M.L. Carrington.” She filled it with invented creatures, planets, and distant lands; on one page, for example, accompanying a green animated bird, forked legs reaching skyward, eye fixed on its bug prey are the carefully penciled words, “The Hootdum is found in east Loogo. flies up-side-down. Eats insects.” Primarily self-taught, she studied in Florence, Italy for nine months in 1932 regularly visiting the Uffizi and major museums in Siena, Rome and Venice viewing paintings and frescoes. She then honed her drawing skills as Amadée Ozenfant’s first student in London in 1936; his academy “was very important because we did exact line drawings. We had to study with a single drawing and a single model for many weeks. Foremost, the model was an apple and as long as the drawing was not perfect in line, exact, there we were contemplating the apple, until the apple dried out,” she recalls.9 When she broke with family, church, and state, escaping England at age 20 to join her married, older lover Max Ernst (1891-1976) and the Surrealist movement first in Paris, and then New York City, she remained unwilling to become anyone’s muse. She was equally uncompromising in her search on canvas for freedom from this world’s gravity.
In her mind Carrington would forever wander the rooms of Crookhey Hall, the mansion built in 1874 in Lancashire, England where she lived from ages 3 to 10 under the care of her Irish nana Mary Kavanaugh and a French governess.10 Late in life she described Crookhey Hall as a “rather dark, exciting place” where north of the house “there was a lake. We had the myth that it was bottomless and we weren’t allowed to go there alone.”11 Perhaps it was on that lake that Carrington’s La joie de patinage was set, a Cockerham farmhouse in the distance.
Carrington was resistant to explaining her artwork. Her close study of self through her artistic expression, as she indicates in the above epigraph, was a spiritually esoteric, experiential one. She also warned against intellectual games as a path to understanding the meaning of her imagery; but rather, she encouraged visual readings of her artwork, and that the viewer concentrate on their feelings for a canvas, while also considering the visual relationship of its objects in space.12 Even so, Carrington acknowledged that all of her writing was autobiographical.13 At times she built bridges between her writing—elusive, provocative, biting in its dark humor—and her visual art; case in point are the frequent parallels scholars draw between her short story The Debutante of 1937-38 and her contemporaneous self-portrait Inn of the Dawn Horse. But neither Carrington’s writing or her artwork is illustration, description, or direct narrative; rather, it is fragmentary, puzzle-like, and relational. She identified as Surrealist, her imagery emerging from a dream-like, limbatic place; her texts appeared intuitive, born from free association and automatic writing, yet grounded in subtle, and at times grizzly, satirical wit.
Tentative connections can be found between La joie de patinage and Carrington’s writing. In the novella Little Francis of 1938 “During Ubriaco’s (Ernst’s) long silences, Francis (Carrington) would amuse himself (herself) by looking back at the brighter periods of his (her) life spent at Crackwood (Crookhey Hall). They were not many. He (she) remembered skating on the lake north of Crackwood one hard winter.”14 At the core of Waiting, a short story Carrington wrote concurrently with La joie de patinage’s painting during her stay in New York City late-July 1941 to January 1942, is a romantic conflict between two women, Elizabeth and Margaret (Peggy Guggenheim and Carrington) over Fernando (Ernst). The painting foregrounds two figures, one bears three heads (recalling in form Salvador Dali’s Soft Self-Portrait of 1941 as well as Carrington’s long-necked horse-women of her The Meal of Lord Candlestick15 of 1938), a black soay sheep, jaguar fur, and two British red foxes. Wrapped loosely in a green cloak, the other figure is masked and bare-breasted with the legs of a dark soay sheep. Les patineurs (the skaters) balance on their right leg, left leg raised in a balletic arabesque.16 Six horses cavort on the snowy bank as Carrington’s darkened white horse avatar (perhaps), is a fixed weathervane.
Significantly, La joie de patinage’s turquoise-hued winter landscape echoes that of her Bird Superior: Portrait of Max Ernst, painted circa 1939 at the farmhouse where she had lived with Ernst in Saint Martin d’Ardèche, France. The fish-tailed Ernst’s incongruous, single yellow sock with its horizontal green stripes curiously complements the skater’s loud, fuschia skirt with its flowing sea green bands. The two paintings belong to the same mindscape. Bird Superior was almost certainly in Carrington’s hands in New York City in 1941 as she painted, signed and dated (11-12-41) La joie de patinage.17 Together they can be read as companion pieces telling a tale of complex relationships, loss, love, and Carrington’s journey towards independence.
The artist’s time in New York City was one of healing. She had suffered and survived a tremendous crisis the previous year when forcibly interned in a psychiatric hospital in Santander, Spain for six-months following Ernst’s arrest by the Nazis. There she was inhumanely injected multiple times with the barbiturate Luminal and the seizure-inducing Cardiazol.18 As her family maneuvered to move Carrington to an institution in South Africa, she foiled them, escaping war-torn Europe for the Americas by marrying the diplomat Renato Leduc. In 1942, she again leapt into unknown territory, leaving New York to head south to Mexico City, where she built a life, a family, and populated a fantastic, ethereal world on canvas.
Teresa Eckmann, Associate Professor of Contemporary Latin American Art History, University of Texas at San Antonio

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