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Leonor Fini—who was born on August 30, 1907, in Buenos Aires and died on January 18, 1995, in Paris—was an extraordinary self-taught artist, known for her associations with the Surrealists of Paris. Although she chose to not officially be a part of the group, her unique art and personal style made her a prominent figure in the movement. Fini's work was characterized by her exploration of female identity, transformation, and agency, often depicting fantastical worlds and mysterious creatures.
Fini's early life was marked by her mother leaving her father and taking Fini with her to Trieste, Italy. At the age of seventeen, Fini left for Milan and then moved to Paris in 1931, drawn by her interest in Surrealism. It was there that she likely met André Breton, the leader of the Surrealist movement. Despite not joining the group officially, she exhibited with the Surrealists in key exhibitions, such as the 1936 Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism at MoMA and the International Exhibition of Surrealists in London that same year.
Her social circle included fellow artists Leonora Carrington, Meret Oppenheim, Dora Maar, and Dorothea Tanning. She also had patrons such as Paul Eluard, Jean Genet, Giorgio de Chirico, and Max Ernst. Fini formed close relationships with other Surrealists but preferred her independence, rejecting marriage and children.
During the onset of World War II, Fini stayed in Europe, living in Rome, where she made an income through commissioned portraits. She later returned to Paris and formed a commune, beginning her work in theater and ballet design. Notable contributions include her ballet "Leonor's Dream" in 1949, for which she wrote, designed, and created the costumes, and her designs for the theatrical production of "Crystal Palace."
Throughout her career, Fini's work was showcased in various exhibitions, such as the show at Julien Levy Gallery in 1937 and in Paris the following year. Her work "Shepherdess of the Sphinxes" (1941) was showcased at the Exhibition by 31 Women.
Leonor Fini's art and life were marked by her strong sense of individuality and creativity. She often made her own costumes and used them as a means of self-expression, embracing transformation and agency. Fini's work remains an important part of the Surrealist movement, and her legacy is preserved in archives and papers located in Paris, overseen by her friend Richard Overstreet.