Leonor Fini (1907 – 1996)
Born in Buenos Aires to an Italian-Argentine father and a Triestine mother, little Leonor Fini left her native country as an infant. Her mother, to whom she would remain very close for the rest of her life, decided to take her away from her father, a despotic and authoritarian man, to free her from the oppressive violence. Leonor grew up in the bourgeois family home, and came into contact with the flourishing Italian culture of the time. Umberto Saba, Italo Svevo, Leo Castelli and even Gillo Dorfles passed through her salons, around the 1930s, she landed in France, because she realised that in order to expand her network of contacts and immerse herself in the whirlwind of the intellectual world, Paris could only be the one valid destination. Here she met the young art dealer Christian Dior and Elsa Schiapparelli, but also came into contact with André Breton’s Surrealist movement. Although Fini did not consider herself to be an integral part of the movement, she did treasure the so-called game of cadavre exquis typical of the movement; it was thus that she was guided by automatism in creation, as well as by the juxtaposition of forms and materials. Despite being accused of misogyny, the Surrealist movement was fundamental for female artists; indeed, it was within the ranks of the group that they found room for expression. Fini never abandoned Bréton’s rules, but gave life to works with a surreal and revolutionary character, as she was. Hers was a purely figurative painting ; her figures took different forms, but were designed to represent the artist’s ego. All her painting was a means of affirming her own being, transposing onto canvas the sense of play, femininity, eroticism, but also surreal characters such as cats, sphinxes, angels and witches. In short, all ingredients that, to this day, make her a symbol of emancipation and non-conformism, capable of overcoming the damnatio memoriae desired and implemented by Italian critics.