Leonor Fini

Fini Alexander Iolas Gallery

Fini Galerie Alexander Iolas


Born in Buenos Aires, 1907, to an Argentine father and an Italian mother, the life of Leonor Fini began in utter turmoil. Her parent's strife ridden marriage ended before Fini was a year old. After their divorce, Fini's mother gathered up Leonor and their belongings and returned to Italy.

leonor finiSettling in the northern Italian city of Trieste Fini's mother began a peaceful new life. This was soon over as her ex-husband travelled to Italy to kidnap Leonor and take back to Argentina. With no help from local authorities, and no legal protection against such actions, Fini's mother nonetheless outwitted her estranged husband. For six nightmare years she disguised Leonor as a boy whenever they ventured out of the house. As absurd as this may seem, it worked. Her husband gave up his mission and returned to Argentina, never to be seen again.

Fini's career also began in a traumatic way. In her early teens she suffered an eye disease that forced her to wear bandages on both eyes. Living in a world of darkness for quite some time, she had little to do but develop her inner vision. She spent her days and visualizing fantastic images, and after her recovery, decided to become an artist.

leonor fini As she did with everything , Fini pursued art with passion, determination, and conviction. She visited museums regularly, and studied renaissance masters, Mannerism, Romanticism and the Pre Raphaelites. Instead of busying herself with the usual juvenile concerns, Fini immersed herself in her uncle's large collection of art books. Consequently, her talent grew rapidly and at the tender age of seventeen, Fini had her debut exhibit in a Trieste gallery. More amazing, word of her talent reached Milan, a major Italian art center. The city's upper eschalon loved Fini's work and commissioned portraits by the young master. This early display of talent earned her the friendship of renowned Italian artists such as Funi, Carra, and Tosi.

leonor finiHer early induction to Europe's plethora of avant garde movements caused her to mature quickly in originality, philosophical development, and personality. It also inspired her trademark sense of autonomy and non-conformism which she embraced with the same passion as she did with art.

Her eccentric persona and flamboyant dress was rivalled only by Dali. This was not posturing showmanship but a form of integral surrealist expression that uses the entire body as theatre to protest against conventional society.

She was only eighteen when Fini arrived in Paris, but her art quickly found its way into galleries. Art writer/curator Whitney Chadwick says of this period in Fini's life:

    "In Paris she became a legend almost overnight. When one of the Surrealists saw a painting of hers in a Paris gallery in 1936 and sought out its creator, she arranged a rendezvous in a local cafe and arriveddressed in a cardinal's scarlet robes, which she had purchased in a clothing store specializing in clerical vestments. 'I liked the sacrilegious nature of dressing as a priest, and the experience of being a woman and wearing the clothes of a man who would never know a woman's body.' "
This bizarre, meeting, prompted Eluard, Ernst, Magritte, and Brauner to introduce Fini to the Surrealist Group. She developed friendships with the women members of the movement and participated in surrealist exhibits. To everyone's complete surprise Fini not only refused to join the group, she denied being a surrealist. Though it is said she did not join because of Andre Breton's authoritarian leadership, she had more fundamental reasons. Like Dali and Artaud, Fini saw the group's obsession with treatise and theories not as radical, but as a manifestation of what Dali called "typical petit bourgeois mentality".

leonor finiFor her, surrealism was beyond manifestos and theories. In the sexual realm, she found the group homophobic and misogynist despite its endeavors to idealize women and liberate sexual desire without the interference of morality. John B.Myers, a gallery dealer who documented his experiences with surrealists, wrote of this double standard:

"The sexuality in which he (Breton) was involved was rigorously against what he considered perversion. For example, he detested male homosexuality to the point where he once threatened to expel a member of the surrealistmovement if he didn't get married. On the other hand, voyeurism and lesbianism disturbed him not at all..."
(Myers 1969, 11-12)

Fini was not without ideological contradictions of her own. Despite her denial of being a surrealist, she adhered to many of surrealism's tenants. In fact they played an integral role in her quest to envision a "new woman". For instance, Fini claimed to use images from her subconscious, adopted Georges Bataille's philosophy of a return to the mythological, spiritual and visionary aspects of primal cultures.

She founded her methodology on surrealism's tenant of delving into the self and described herself as living a life in revolt. She used surrealism as both a weapon against the onslaught of prehistoric social conventions and a tool for constructing a modern society that allowed female participation in existence. According to art writer/educator Julie Byrd:

    "Profound belief in the ability to shape the exterior world according to one's desire is rare among women of Fini's generation. Cultivating her own individuality, she placed her own freedom and autonomy to a degree that seems the embodiment of the surrealist ideal, but that was, in fact, equalled by few surrealists."

Refusal to consider herself a surrealist and her willingness to nonetheless align herself with the movement was never an issue with the Surrealists. It was not unusual for the group to seek allies and sympathizers from non-members and similar revolutionary movements. Picasso and Giacommetti were among these allies, however their affiliations were temporary and sporadic.. She was perhaps the only outsider who consistently kept close to the group.

leonor fini Fini's extensive oeuvre has been an invaluable contribution to the development of a modern feminine consciousness, but her version differed somewhat from the other women surrealists. In contrast with Remedios Varo's ideal woman, Fini's was not cerebral, mystical or ironic but authoritarian, sensual, and governed by passion. She portrays them in an almost Amazonian sense: as goddesses, warriors, and voluptuaries.

Compared with Tanning and Carrington, Fini's art did not symbolically transfer female sexuality onto childhood, she placed it within the adult realm. There is none of the resentment toward masculinized society that appears in the other surrealist women's art. Neither is there the subliminal but ubiquitous sense of determinism that underlies much of their work. Varo and Kahlo, depict the masculine position as arbitrary. Fini was too insolent for such kindness.

Her work simply ignores or reduces the masculine position to insignificance. Whereas most of the other surrealist women's art contains statements about female sexuality, Fini's is more a proclaimation and celebration of it. The women in her art are at once beautiful and alluring, yet powerful and threatening, embodying not only a female sexuality but that which had been thought of as exclusively male. In that sense, Fini envisioned a historically unique--and prophetic-- feminine sexual duality absent from the other surrealist women's constructs.

After WWII, Fini's career expanded. She designed theatre sets and costumes, and did book illustrations. Her work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums throughout the world. Although the surrealist moniker followed her until her death in 1996, she always rejected categorization of any kind. She changed styles often and employed various techniques and media as if to shrug off her tenacious image as a "woman surrealist".

Her efforts had no affect on the public or the academia and perhaps never will. It is almost impossible to consider her life and her art without proclaiming her a surrealist--an extraordinary one at that.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
1929 Galerie Barbaroux, Milan
1932 Galerie Jacques Bonjean, Paris
1934 Galerie Les Quatre Chemins, Paris
1936 Julien Levy Gallery, New York, with Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Eluard
1939 Julien Levy Gallery, New York
1942 Galerie Indermauer, Zurich
1945 Studio La Finestra, Rome
1946 Galerie Vendome, Paris
1947 Hugo Gallery, New York
1948 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
1948 Mid-Twentieth Century Art Gallery, Los Angeles
1948/9 Maisons des Loisirs, La Louiére, Belgium
1950 Galerie Vendome, Paris
1951 Galleria dell'Ala Napoleonica, Palazzo Reale, Venice
1952 Galleria Chiurazzi, Rome
1954 Lausanne Palace, Lausanne, France
1957 Galerie de la Gravure, Paris
1957 Galleria Galatea, Turin
1960 Kaplan Gallery, London
1963 Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York
1965 Les Fleurs de Mal, Wittenborn Gallery, New York
1967/8 Galeria Iolas, Milan
1968 Galleria Dantessca, Turin
1968 Galeria Iolas-Velasco, Madrid
1969 Galerie Brockstedt, Hamburg
1969 Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne
1969 Galerie Lambert Monet, Geneva
1970 Galerie, Iolas, Geneva
1970 Centro Internazionale d'Arte, "Il Poliedro", Rome
1972 Lambert Monet Graphiques, Genva
1972 40 Lithographs, Galerie Lambert Monet, Geneva
1972/3 Retrospective, Seibu Museum of Tokyo; Hanshin Museum of Osaka; Fukuoka Museum; Hiroshima Museum; Museum of the Prefecture of Kanazawa, Japan
1973 Les Petites Filles Modéles, Galerie Art et Valeur, Paris
1974 Galerie Husstege, Amsterdam
1975/6 Sultanes et Magiciennes de Mille et Une Nuits, Galerie Altman Carpentier, Paris
1977 Le Concile d'Amour, Galeria Furstenberg, Paris
1978 Fetes secretes Galerie Proscenium, Paris
1978/9 Fruits de la Passion, Galerie Proscenium, Paris
1979 Solomonie la Possédée et Roméo et Juliette, Galerie Jacques Carpentier, Paris
1979 Le Temps de la Mue, Galerie Bosquet, Paris
1981 Museum villa Franz von Stuck, Munich
1982 Les Petites Enseignes pour la Nuit, Galerie Proscenium, Paris
1983 Retrospective, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrare
1983 Carmilla, Galerie J.F. Gobbi, Paris
1985/6 Retrospective, Musée d'Art Sogo de Yokohama; Musée d'Art Daimaru d'Osaka; Musée, municipal d'Art de Kitakyushu; Musée d'Art Moderne d'Hokkaido à Sapporo, Japan
1986 Rétrospective, Musée du Luxembour, Paris
1986/7 Leonor Fini/Les Fleurs du Mal de Baudelaire, Galerie Bosquet, Paris
1988 Baudelaire, Galerie Carpentier, Paris
1989 Mussavi Gallery, New York. Mussavi Gallery, Southampton, NY
1991 Gouaches pour le theatre, Galerie Procenium, Paris
1992 Les Passagers, Galerie Dionne, Paris
1992 Leonor Fini: The Artist as Designer, CFM Gallery, New York
1993 Depth Set Free, Alliance Francaise, San Francisco
1994/5 Oeuvres recentes, Galerie Dionne, Paris
1997 Les Somnambules—In Memorium Leonor Fini, Galerie Dionne, Paris
1997 La Vie Idéale, CFM Gallery, New York
1997/8 Leonor Fini, peintre du fantastique, Retrospective, Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany
1999 Celebrating Leonor Fini, CFM Gallery, New York
2000 Autoportraits, Galerie Minsky, Paris
2000/1 Les Premiéres Années à Paris 1931-1934, Galerie Minsky, Paris
2001 Aquarelles, Galerie Minsky, Paris
2005 Leonor Fini, Bunkamura The Museum, Tokyo; Daimaru Museum, Osaka;The
Museum of Modern Art, Gunma; Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya

Selected Group Exhibitions
1924 Trieste, exposition (Leonor Fini's first group exhibition at age seventeen)
1929 Ile Mostra del Novecento Italiano, Palazzo della Permanente, Milan.
1929 Galleria Milano, Milan.
1931 Glaspalast, Munich.
1933 Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, with Tosi, Sironi, de Chirico, de Pisis, Carrà, Severini, Campligli, Janvier
1936 The International Surrealist Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London
1936 Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism, Museum of Modern Art, New York
1939 Meubles surrealistes, Galerie Droin, Place Vendome, Paris with Eugéne Berman, Max Ernst, Valentine Hugo, Meret Oppenheim
1940 Julien Levy Gallery, New York
1942 New York Objects, Drawings, Photographs, Paintings, Sculpture, Collages, Art of This Century Gallery (Peggy Guggenheim), New York.
1942 An Exhibition by 31 Women, Art of This Century Gallery (Peggy Guggenheim), New York
1947 Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris; with Stanislao Lepri, Cocteau, Berard
1948 Venice Biennale
1950 Le Monde imaginaire, La Fenetre de Paris, Paris; with Max Ernst, Stanislao, Lepri, Paul Delvaux
1953/4 Futuristas y Artistas Italianos de Hoje, The Second Bienniale of São Palo, Brazil
1955 Exposition d'Artistes étrangers resident en France, Petit Palais, Paris; with Campigli, Severini, Tamburi
1955 Chats, Galerie de Seine, Paris; with Fougita, Picabia, Valentine Hugo, Stanislao Lepri
1957 Bosch, Goya, et le Fantastique, Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
1959 Masques, Musée Guimet, Paris
1961 The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Plazzo Venier dei Leoni, Venice
1961 L'Apocalypse, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris: Palais de Savoie, Aix-les-Bains
1962 Surrealismus, phantastische, Malerei der Gegenwart, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna
1963 L'Apocalypse. Palais Barberini, Rome
1963 Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, Salon de Mai
1965 Acquisitions de Musée de 1955 à 1965, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris
1966 Surrealism: A State of Mind, 1924-65, University of California Art Gallery, Santa Barbara
1967 Le Muse inquietanti: Maestri del Surrealismo, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin
1968 The First International Exhibition of Erotic Art, Lund's Konsthall, Lund
1969 The Surrealists, Byron Gallery, New York
1972 Galerie Iolas, Paris; with Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, and Magritte
1973 Erotic Art, The New School Art Center, New York
1976 Librairie-Galerie des Arts, Nancy, to benefit Amnesty International
1976/7 Women Artists, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; University Art Museum, The University of Texas at Austin; Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg; The Brooklyn Museum, New York
1979 Salvador Dali et Leonor Fini, Galerie Fürstenberg, Paris
1982/3 Paul Eluard et ses amis peintres 1895-1952, Musée national d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
1984 Artistic Collaboration in the Twentieth Century, Hirshorn Museum, Washington, D.C., with Joseph Cornell
1986/7 Women Artists of the Surrealist Movement, Baruch College Gallery, New York; Fine Arts Center Gallery, SUNY Stony Brook
1987 Jean Paul Guibbert: Amis Images et de l'autre Côté des Objets, Petit Foyer, Musée d'Art moderne Centre Georges Pompidous, Paris
1991 Accrochage surréaliste—cent queues ni têtes, Isidore Ducasse Fine Arts, New York
1991 Images of the Sphinx, CFM Gallery, New York
1995 Art Americas, CFM Gallery, Miami
1997 Floating images of women in art history, from the Birth of Feminism toward the Dissolution of Gender, Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Tochigi, Japan
1998 Leonor Fini and Salvador Dali, CFM Gallery, New York
1998 Peggy Guggenheim : A Centennial Celebration, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
1998/9 Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
1998/9 Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism and Self-Representation, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Miami Art Museum, Florida; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
1999 Surrealism: Two Private Eyes / The Nesuhi Ertegun and Daniel Filipacchi Collections, Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum, New York
2000/1 Surrealism, Nassau Couny Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York
2001 Leonor Fini and Her Contemporaries: Surrealism Through the Eyes of Women Artists, Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco

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