These days there are lots of art shows, all around the globe, that are seriously considering the profiles of women who have effectively contributed to art history, not only as muses or lovers of male geniuses, but as creators of new, fascinating, self-supporting pieces of art worthy of study.
Following this trend, the Galeria Mayoral in Barcelona is presenting something related to this subject, Dones Surrealistes. Curated by Victoria Combalia, it gathers together artists such as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Maruja Mallo, Angeles Santos and Valentine Hugo. All these unique, charming and mysterious women have had a link with the territory of Catalonia, and until the first of April it will be possible to appreciate some selected works — lent by private collections and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya alike — in this location in the Eixample.
Without doubt, the name that is known best nowadays is Frida (who was in love with the catalan Josep Bartolí). Here she appears in a multiple self-portrait, showing herself in the three different stages of life. In another piece, she looks like she is drawing herself in different positions simultaneously, as in a futurist painting.
Another masterpiece is a drawings of horses by Leonora Carrington, a surrealist painter best known for her personal relationship with Max Ernst (she dated him before the war in Europe, but then she had to flee to Mexico, where she became one of the most recognised artist of her time). Leonora portrayed magical landscapes filled with fantastic animals, bringing them to life from the British folk stories of her youth. These memories of her homeland followed her all the way to Central America (she passed through Catalonia while escaping from Europe and luckily found her promised land in Mexico City).
A close friend of hers is also featured in the show, Remedios Varo, who lived in Barcelona with her Catalonian lover. Dona o l’esperit de la nit (Woman or Spirit of the Night) of 1952 is one of her paintings that captures your eyes with a female protagonist sporting an intense and deep look, pouring out of a body of elongated, murky shapes.
Then there are the pictures of Dora Maar, well known as one of Picasso’s lover, less known as a photographer and painter in her own right. And those of Lee Miller, a good looking and talented woman who ventured into the field of portraiture and documentary photography during World War II. In addition to being a lover to Man Ray, Miller was married to the surrealist painter and historian Roland Penrose.
There is a common quality underlying the images chosen: an enigmatic sensibility directed towards dreamlike worlds, an attention to details and those lost in them, and a strong love for life in all its declinations.
Diana Di Nuzzo
www.dianadinuzzo.com & @dianadinuzzo