In ‘Inn of the Dawn Horse’, Leonora Carrington portrays herself as the central, almost supernatural character in her own drama (the theatrical open curtain on the rear wall underlines the dramatic effect). Her wild hair and electric eyes express her rebellious nature and unique individuality. Her bourgeois chair is feminine (she came from a wealthy industrialist family), its quaint little feet discreetly nudged by the chair skirt. Yet she, with her opened legs, riding jacket, jodhpurs and voracious stare, is assuredly masculine. The hyena, like a familiar, encapsulates both sexes as it is both dangerous and lactating. Leonora can tame it with her magical energy. This woman is so powerful, she can alter the world around her without even moving!
As for the horses, the one above her head undoubtedly symbolizes her childhood rocking horse, Tartar who would go out into the world and return with intriguing tales and stories. Now on the move, it represents her stirring spirit or alter-ego. As for the horse bounding out of the strange opening, it is truly liberated and can run free. Now aged 20, Leonora can finally break from the stifling bonds of her restrictive upper middle class background. This is a new dawn.
Executed shortly after her meeting and instant falling in love with the Surrealist painter Max Ernst in London, this Self Portrait demonstrates the new found self-confidence and creative power resulting from his influence. She needed the backing of a successful artist such as he, to launch herself into the world. Her official ‘coming out’ a few years earlier, meant nothing to her – this was her true coming out.
The new biography by Carrington’s cousin, Joanna Moorhead (published by Virago), is a very descriptive and easy read.