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LEONOR FINI – The Surreal Life of a Surreal Woman

LEONOR FINI – The Surreal Life of a Surreal Woman
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In the picture: Leyden Gallery's director Adriana Cerne in front of Leonor Fini Photograph by Dora Maar, at Tate Modern.


"I have always loved, and lived, my own theatre."

Leonor Fini's words effectively encapsulate her spirit as an artist. Independent, creative and unconventional, Leonor Fini has been one of the most eclectic and influential women of the 20th century.

Leonor Fini (1908-1996), was born as Eleanora Fini in Buenos Ares, Argentina. Following the divorce of her parents, she moved at an early age to Trieste (Italy) where she was raised by her mother. Her father Herminio fought for the custody of his daughter, to the extent that he attempted to kidnap her. After this incident, Leonor lived part of her childhood disguised as a boy; the possible reason of her passion for cross-dressing which made her notable in bohemian society.

Leonor Fini was a painter, performer, author and designer who consistently challenged the “status quo”, pushing the limits of the (already quite open-minded) artistic scene. The artist never received a formal education in fine arts. However, while she was living in Italy, she studied the works of the Italian Mannerists and was influenced by their use of elongated forms. In 1931, Leonor moved to Paris, where she met protagonists of the Surrealist movement, such as Giorgio De Chirico, Max Ernst and the British-born, Mexican artist Leonora Carrington. Despite her proximity to the movement, Fini always rejected the categorisation of surrealist, maintaining her own independence, as a painter and a woman. The education received by her independent mother profoundly influenced Fini’s character. Familiar with psychoanalytic theories, she refused a position of subjugation to men - a position that was usually reserved for women within that artistic circle. Besides her paintings, Fini is also known for designing the costumes for Federico Fellini’s comedy-drama film 8 ½(1963). She was also the subject of numerous poems and photographs, including the one by Dora Maar currently exhibited at Tate Modern.

Unfortunately, Fini’s famous eccentric lifestyle and open sexuality also contributed to divert attention away from her artworks. According to the Art Dealers Association of America, Leonor Fini is considered “the most undervalued artist of the 20th Century”. Nevertheless, we are now assisting a growing awareness of this artist’s importance in the European history of art. Her works are collected worldwide, in major galleries and museum such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Modern in London. Furthermore, the exhibition “Dreamers Awake” (2017) at White Cube in London underlined the influence felt even today by emerging women artists. Finally, the Dior 2018 haute couture collection designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri was directly inspired by Leonor’s works.

Leonor Fini died in Paris on the 18th January 1996, as one of the most influential - and misunderstood – women of her time. Leyden Gallery has the privilege to hold four artworks and one of her books in its collection. Please contact us for any enquires at info@leydengallery.com.

Leonor Fini, Sisters (1980), Lithograph artist proof signed by the artist, 46x43cm


"Leonor Fini Artist Overview and Analysis". Sarah Frances Dias.  Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas by Dr Rebecca Baillie. 26 Dec 2017. Accessed 03 Feb 2020.


 “Leonor Fini”


Exhibition “Dreamers Awake”, 2017


“Dior haute couture inspired by surrealist Fini”



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