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“La casa dormía en estado latente, respirando con calma antes de atacar”, fragmento de Dark Book. Photo: Inge Morath / Magnum Photos / La Razón México.
"The house slept in a dormant state, breathing calmly before attacking", excerpt from Dark Book. Photo: Inge Morath / Magnum Photos / La Razón México.

Inside Leonora Carrington's house

To celebrate the 104th anniversary of the birth of the surrealist artist, the "virtual" doors of her home in Colonia Roma have been opened. 

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There is nothing as private as the inside of a home, so much so that sometimes when you walk through the doors of someone else's flat you are somehow slipping into the head of its owner. Or into his or her heart, depending on the esteem in which you hold it and the good or bad times you've had in that space.

This was seen by the artist Louise Bourgeois, who through her Woman-House (a body where the head was replaced by a building) represented the relationship between the public and artistic and the private sphere. Art therapy has also seen it by decrypting through the drawing of a house questions such as how furnished a patient's mind is, whether they manage to take their rage outside through a chimney or whether they drew a home without windows or doors, an internal prison. 

Known as one of the three "witches" of surrealism, as André Breton dubbed her, the British-born Leonora Carrington spent much of her life in Mexico - from 1942, when she arrived in the country in exile from a Europe at war after meeting in Lisbon her husband for a short time but a good friend to the end, the writer Renato Leduc.

Leonora had been through a lot before she landed in Mexico. Prior to the outbreak of World War II and at the age of 20, the Englishwoman was already known in Paris as a "magician" of surrealist painting and the partner of the artist Marx Erns, but when he was captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in Les Milles, Leonora fled to Spain where she suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental institution. 

By the time she succeeded in escaping and reaching Lisbon, she met Leduc at the Mexican Embassy and together they embarked on an adventure to a Mexico that would end up being the painter's true homeland. 

Now that it is 104 years since the birth of Carrington, who died in 2011, at the age of 94, in Mexico City, the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) has rehabilitated her Studio House in the Colonia Roma so that it can be visited, for the moment and until the pandemic permits, virtually. 

This opens the doors to one of the most intimate spaces of this artist-witch who painted in the kitchen and invented recipes almost like a druid or a herbalist together with her friend and fellow artist Remedios Varo. Or sitting down with her children to write stories, like the one in the Dark Book:

"The house slept in a dormant state, breathing calmly before attacking".

The artist lived in this house in Chihuahua 194, in Colonia Roma, for six decades until her death. It previously belonged to Pablo Weisz Carrington, son of the painter, who has donated 45 sculptures by his mother to the UNAM, according to the general coordinator of diffusion of the institution, Francisco Mata Rosas.

Weisz, who is also the son of the Hungarian photographer Emérico Weisz, whom Carrington married after her brief marriage to Leduc, was "fundamental" in advising on the rehabilitation of the artist's Studio Home and in trying to make it very faithful to its original state.

It also contains more than eight thousand objects that were left there after Leonora Carrington's death, including books, household goods and studio material, which will be a great source of future research.   

The intention of this reopening is for visitors to get to know the artist's intimate, more mundane and domestic world and her studio, and for it to become a personal experience.

"The best tribute we can pay to Leonora is not to define her, but for each person who comes to establish their own link with her. To limit her to a single vision would be to fail to give her the recognition that UAM, as a public university, wants to give to her life, work and thought. Let everyone build their own Leonora," UNAM said. 

The virtual visits were inaugurated last Tuesday and can be made through the website casaleonoracarrington.uam.mx.

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