September 29, 2010

Unfamiliar Quotations - Leonora Carrington

Back in Lancashire I got an attack of claustrophobia and tried to convince Mother to let me go and study painting in London. She thought this was a very idle and silly idea and gave me a lecture about artists. “There is nothing wrong about painting,” she told me. “I paint boxes myself for jumble sales. There is a difference though in being artistic and in actually being an artist. Your aunt Edgeworth wrote novels and was very friendly with Sir Walter Scott but she would never have called herself ‘an artist.’ It wouldn’t have been nice. Artists are immoral they live together in attics, you could never get used to an attic after all the luxury and comfort you have here. Besides what is there to prevent you painting at home, there are all sorts of picturesque nooks which would be delightful to paint.”
“I want to paint nude models,” I said. “You can’t get nude models here.”
“Why not?” replied mother with a flash of logic. “People are nude everywhere if they haven’t got any clothes on.” Finally I did go to London to study art and had a love affair with an Egyptian. A pity I never actually got to Egypt but thanks to mother I did see most of Europe during my youth.

René Magritte. The Portrait. Brussels 1935.
Art in London didn’t seem quite modern enough and I began to want to study in Paris where the Surrealists were in full cry. Surrealism is no longer considered modern today and almost every village rectory and girl’s school have surrealist pictures hanging on their walls. Even Buckingham Palace has a large reproduction of Magritte’s famous slice of ham with an eye peering out. It hangs, I believe, in the throne room. Times do change indeed. The Royal Academy recently gave a retrospective exhibition of Dada art and they decorated the gallery like a public lavatory. In my day people in London would have been shocked. Today the Lord Mayor opened the exhibition with a long speech about twentieth-century masters and the Queen Mother hung a wreath of gladiola on a piece of sculpture called “Navel” by Hans Arp.

The Hearing Trumpet, Leonora Carrington, 1974.

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