Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire

I always imagined that I would have a life very different than the one imagined for me, but I understood from a very early age that I would have to revolt in order to make that life.

—Leonor Fini

Admirers of the Argentine Italian artist Leonor Fini have included Andy Warhol, Madonna, Kim Kardashian West, and more recently Maria Grazia Chiuri, the head of the fashion house Dior, whose spring 2018 collection was dedicated to the artist. Multitalented and fearlessly forward-thinking, Fini refused to be categorized in any way, especially through gender norms. Although Fini exhibited in major surrealist surveys throughout the thirties and forties and counted Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí as friends, she rejected the movement’s traditional view of woman as muse. Her art explores the masculine and feminine, dominance and submission, eroticism and humor. Fini’s practice went beyond the medium of painting to embrace theater, ballet, the illustrated book, and costume. Rejecting social convention, Fini insisted that identity, like artistic expression, is never fixed—it must constantly be open to inspiration and imagination. The powerful self-portraits she produced throughout her long career present woman as warrior, sphinx, dominatrix, and feline goddess, mastering landscapes and lovers alike. The first American survey of her work, “Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire 1930–1990,” will open September 28 at the Museum of Sex and run through March 4, 2019. A selection of Fini’s work appears below.

Leonor Fini in Arcachon, 1940. Photo: unknown photographer. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonor Fini.

Leonor Fini in Paris, ca. 1938. Photo: unknown photographer. Courtesy of the estate of Leonor Fini.

Leonor Fini in Nonza, Corsica, 1967. Photo: unknown photographer.

Leonor Fini, Max Ernst, and Enrico Colombotto Rosso in Nonza, Corsica, ca. 1965. Photo: unknown photographer. Courtesy of the Estate of Leonor Fini.

Leonor Fini, Femme costumée/Femme en armure (Woman in Costume/Woman in Armor), 1938, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

Leonor Fini, Portrait de femme aux feuilles d’acanthe (Portrait of Woman with Acanthus Leaves), 1946, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

Leonor Fini, Dans la tour (In the Tower), 1952, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

Leonor Fini, L’alcove (The Alcove), 1941, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

Leonor Fini, Femme assise sur un homme nu (Woman Seated on a Naked Man), 1942, oil on canvas.

Leonor Fini, La leçon de botanique (The Botany Lesson), 1974, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

Leonor Fini, Les aveugles (The Blind Ones), 1968, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery.

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