Leonor Fini 1907 – 1996

I was introduced to artist, feminist, writer and designer, Leonor Fini while reading a book “Witches, Sluts, Feminists” by Kristen J Sollee. A phenomenal read especially for someone like me who is embracing her feminist witch more than ever – but more about that in a future post.

Leonor Fini

When I googled Leonor Fini, I was instantly hooked! Here was a woman living her life exactly how she wanted! A bohemian, glamazon, femme fatale with talent to burn! A self taught artist, she learned anatomy by studying corpses at the local morgue and techniques by the Old Masters through reading and museums.

She was part of a group exhibition in Milan before moving to Paris in 1931 where she was a huge hit in the art scene with her flamboyant and vivacious personality. She became close friends with surrealists including Salvador Dali, Paul Eluard and Max Ernst who briefly became her lover.

Fini never considered herself as a surrealist though and I agree. An accomplished portrait artist with a style more Renaissance and Mannerist. As quoted on her website “A predominant theme of Fini’s art is the complex relationship between the sexes, primarily the interplay between the dominant female and the passive, androgynous male. In many of her most powerful works, the female takes the form of a sphinx, often with the face of the artist.”

So much of her life mirrored mine, though unlike Fini, marriage (or should I say marriages) and children are a big part of my story! I am also a self taught artist who enjoys a bohemian lifestyle. Pansexual and polyamorous weren’t words thrown around back in the 20th century but there are always too many labels. One should live in ones own truth – life is too short for anything else!

Fini’s use of colour in skin, hair and water is beautifully iridescent and luminous. Her subjects seem sometimes other worldly, almost dreamlike. Painting many self portraits, others and her cats as well as the divine goddess, witch, mythology and skulls is very much reflective of my practice and the direction I want to pursue. I only hope I can leave a mark on the world as Fini has done!

Fini has illustrated books by Edgar Allen Poe and the Marquis de Sade – to name a few. Gender and sexuality along with the darker side of our psyche are well and truly embedded in her practice. All of this being the approach to my practice. Dark Beauty, sexuality and imperfection as beauty through the lens of my personal experience are all part of my artistic practice and artist like Fini resonate that for me.

Designing costumes for opera, a perfume bottle for Schiaparelli and 3 novels are only a few more strings to her bow. Fini was prolific when it came to her creative practice and worked tirelessly until her death in 1996 aged 88. Her art and inspiration live on. I can learn so much from such a talented, creative, feminist and I can only strive to have such a lucrative career and life as Leonor Fini!



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