Lorna Scott Fox at the Times Literary Supplement:
The artist and writer Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) broke her ties so thoroughly with Britain that, until recently, only a cult following in the country knew her name. Two years ago, however, Tate Liverpool brought her playful, arcane visions back to the land she bolted from in 1937, and among the celebratory offerings of this centenary year are a new biography, a new edition of her short stories, and a volume of scholarly essays. And yet much remains unknown about a woman whose life was like a comet, with its bright early flare, tailing off into mystery. Critics pore over the same handful of statements and one letter. It is usually claimed that she lived in Mexico from 1943 onwards, but inThe Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington Joanna Moorhead locates her in the United States from 1968 to the mid-1990s. There are few recorded sightings over those twenty-five years; she hid like one of her imaginary creatures in the shadowy symbolic spaces of her art. Marina Warner first met her in a basement burrow in 1980s New York. The Mexican home Carrington eventually returned to was, belying its exotic surroundings, chill and dark. Back in 1945 she had described herself as “an old Mole who swims beneath the cemeteries”. Whether a surrealist or a pataphysical priestess, she was subterranean rather than celestial.
The misfit daughter of a Lancashire textile magnate, Carrington fed her imagination with words and pictures early on. The sumptuous world of Victorian storybooks is reflected in her teenage paintings of fairies, demons and Sisters of the Moon.