I always imagined that I would have a life very different than the one imagined for me, but I understood from a very early age that I would have to revolt in order to make that life.
Admirers of the Argentine Italian artist Leonor Fini have included Andy Warhol, Madonna, Kim Kardashian West, and more recently Maria Grazia Chiuri, the head of the fashion house Dior, whose spring 2018 collection was dedicated to the artist. Multitalented and fearlessly forward-thinking, Fini refused to be categorized in any way, especially through gender norms. Although Fini exhibited in major surrealist surveys throughout the thirties and forties and counted Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí as friends, she rejected the movement’s traditional view of woman as muse. Her art explores the masculine and feminine, dominance and submission, eroticism and humor. Fini’s practice went beyond the medium of painting to embrace theater, ballet, the illustrated book, and costume. Rejecting social convention, Fini insisted that identity, like artistic expression, is never fixed—it must constantly be open to inspiration and imagination. The powerful self-portraits she produced throughout her long career present woman as warrior, sphinx, dominatrix, and feline goddess, mastering landscapes and lovers alike. The first American survey of her work, “Leonor Fini: Theatre of Desire 1930–1990,” will open September 28 at the Museum of Sex and run through March 4, 2019. A selection of Fini’s work appears below.