In episode 47 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the highly esteemed, Cambridge University Art History professor and Surrealist EXPERT, Alyce Mahon on the magical LEONOR FINI (1907–1996) !!!!
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
The MATRIARCH of 20th century painting, known for her highly original works of supernatural portraits that empowered her female protagonists in the forms of sphinxes, Fini switched up gender roles like no other and was one of the most ground-breaking painters of the twentieth century.
Born in Buenos Aires of mixed Spanish, Italian, and Argentine descent, Leonor escaped Argentina when she was 18 months old with her young mother, who raised her in Trieste where she was exposed to Mannerist and Renaissance painting, and her uncle's library where she read Freud and Jung. Fini, although known for her meticulously executed paintings, was completely self-taught.
With her intelligence, famous wit and charisma, she had garnered celebrity status in the Paris Avant Garde by the early 30s, and was exhibiting in the major surrealist exhibitions. But it was her portraits made in the late 30s and images of women in the forms of sphinxes that garnered her attention.
With the predominant themes in her art being sexual tensions, mysteries and games, her favoured subjects explored the interplay between the dominant female and the passive male. In many of her most powerful works the female takes the form of the sphinx to which she felt a strong identification.
Whilst many of her peers ventured to New York and Mexico after World War II, Fini moved first to Rome and then back to Paris where she became an acclaimed set and costume designer for the likes of Fellini's film, Eight and a Half, and designed dresses and masquerades for Brigitte Bardot.
Self Portrait with a Scorpion (1938)
Portrait of Meret Oppenheim (1938)
The Alcove: An Interior with Three Women or The Black Room (1939)
The Alcove/Self Portrait with Nico Papatakis (1941)
Little Hermit Sphinx (Tate Collection) (1948)
The Angel of Anatomy (1949)
Alyce's fantastic exhibition: https://www.museumofsex.com/portfolio_page/leonor-fini/
Alyce's book! https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691141619/the-marquis-de-sade-and-the-avant-garde (use the code MAHON20 for 25% off!)
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Laura Hendry
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield