Famed Fury: Leonore Fini
Leonore Fili, LIFE, 1947
Leonore Fini. 1908 – 1996. Famed Argentine surrealist painter (although she was an ardent dabbler in art nouveau), illustrator, novelist, nude model, costume designer and unconventional lifestyle enthusiast who cavorted with the likes of Henri Cartier Bresson, Max Ernst, Picasso, Elsa Schiaparelli, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Margot Fonteyn.
Of her many talents, her depiction of women is, perhaps, most notable in that she was rumored to be the only artist to paint women without apology.
With her taste for the dramatic, Fini’s life made its way onto the canvas with paintings that featured strong, beautiful women (in many instances, resembling herself) in ceremonial or provocative situations.
Men are often portrayed as lithe figures who are portrayed as pliant and uncharacteristically agreeable under the protection of Fini’s females. (Role playing she obviously relished).
As a provocateur, she worshiped at the altar of the mythological sphinx, recruiting its closest relative, the cat, to play a major part in her paintings.
Forgiving her the eccentricities that inhabit the artistic, she lived with many cats, up to a total of 23 at one time. So deep was her attachment that the illness of one of her cats could send her reeling to the fainting couches, leaving her in a deep melancholia for weeks.
As art imitates life, so was it with Fini who once remarked, “A woman should live with two men; one more a lover and the other more a friend.”
She then proceeded to do so. Stanislao Lepri, an Italian diplomat when she met him, left the diplomatic corp to live with her and take up painting. Approximately five years later Konstanty Jeleński, a Polish writer and journalist (i.a. from Kultura) joined them in a ménage à trois. What some might call a progressive arrangement.
She led a rich, full and colorful life that has been immortalized over the years. Although in truth, she would, no doubt, take great pleasure in learning that as recently as 2007, a nude photograph of her taken poolside by famed photographer Cartier-Bresson when the two traveled through Europe together circa 1917, drew the highest price paid at auction for one of his works to date. Her legend lives on.