Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Women from Histoire d'O by Leonor Fini

Here is an effective lithograph of two women from Argentinian artist Leonor Fini's illustrations for the novel the Story of O (1954) by Anne Declos, writing under the nom de plume of Pauline Réage.

Le Long du Chemin (1967)

Fini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1907 but was brought up in Trieste.  She moved to Milan, where she first studied art, in the early twenties then on to Paris in the early thirties. She was friends with  Max Ernst, Picasso and Dali amongst many other artists.  In 1933 she travelled through Europe with the writer Mandiargues and Henri Cartier-Bresson who memorably photographed her in the water in Italy in a picture that sold for $305,000 in 2007, a then record for the photographer's works.

Nude (1933) (Leonor Fini) by Henri Cartier-Bresson

As well as painting she designed costumes and sets for the theatre, film, ballet and opera.  In the seventies she wrote three novels.  She was famous for her outrageous dress sense and theatricality and lived in a ménage à trois with two men not once but twice. 

The women in Fini's paintings are strong creatures; it is the men who seem weak and delicate, and she modelled many of her female faces on her own distinctive features. 

The picture of the girls in the water reminds Triple P of the scene from the film Sirens (1994) where Tara Fitzgerald's character floats in a pond as the other girls caress her.

Entre Deux

In the 1960s she produced these delicate lesbian-themed paintings which, again, feature her somewhat elfin features.

Leonor Fini, New York (1936) by Georges Platt-Lynes

Fini died in 1996, largely forgotten, and the French authorities wouldn't even accept any of her work in lieu of death duties.  She perhaps made the mistake of being a talented and distinctive artist who had the misfortune to be an independent woman.  An excellent book (the first) about her, Sphinx: the Life and Art of Leonor Fini by Peter Webb was published last year and, hopefully, should go a long way in rehabilitating her.  We will feature more of her Histoire d'O illustrations another time.

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