Leonora Carrington work acquired for National Galleries of Scotland

  • 17 July 2018

A portrait of Max Ernst is the first work by Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington to enter the collection of National Galleries of Scotland.

Leonora Carrington, Portrait of Max Ernst, c1939 © The estate of Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington, Portrait of Max Ernst, c1939


© The estate of Leonora Carrington

National Galleries of Scotland have acquired a portrait by celebrated Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington with support from Art Fund. It is the first work by Carrington to enter the Scottish national collection.

One of her most famous works, Portrait of Max Ernst (c1939) has an extraordinary history, reflecting the love affair between Carrington and fellow Surrealist artist Max Ernst. After the couple became estranged, the two met up in New York and exchanged paintings, Ernst giving Carrington his painting Leonora in the Morning Light and Carrington giving Ernst this portrait of him. After this meeting, they never saw each other again.

The painting subsequently passed into the collection of Pegeen Guggenheim – the daughter of Ernst’s next lover, the collector Peggy Guggenheim – then on to the artist Ralph Rumney, and it has remained in private collections ever since.

Portrait of Max Ernst depicts Ernst against a frozen landscape wearing a red robe made of feathers, and a bright yellow stripy sock, holding a green lantern with a horse inside it and standing in front of a frozen horse. The image of the horse plays an important role in many of Carrington’s works, taking on a self-portrait quality for the artist. The horse in this work has been interpreted as reflecting Carrington’s feelings of emotional captivity and her desire to escape Ernst’s artistic shadow.

The painting will form part of National Galleries of Scotland’s extensive and world-famous collection of Surrealist art.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: ‘Leonora Carrington’s striking Portrait of Max Ernst is the National Galleries of Scotland’s latest addition to their growing collection of important works by women Surrealist artists, joining the recent Art Fund-supported acquisition by Czech artist Toyen. Both are powerful, haunting works by remarkable artists, overlooked for far too long. We’re delighted to be supporting bold and imaginative curatorship of this kind.’

Tags: Art we've helped buy