The Leonor Fini: "Une Grande Curiosité exhibit at the Weinstein Gallery (December 10 - January 3) showcases the career of a bold female painter who is sadly not well known in the US outside of art circles. Argentinian born and Trieste-raised, Fini had no formal training when she picked up the brush at the age of 19. She moved to Paris in 1931 and soon found herself showing with the Surrealists. Yet she retained a staunch individuality, and her paintings are notable for her balance of strength and femininity in her female subjects. Fini's work throughout her 70-year career includes portraiture, abstract painting, fashion design, and even theater set design.
I was lucky enough to have gallery owner Rowland Weinstein show me around the collection, beginning with a stunning self-portrait Fini painted near the beginning of her career. The exhibit also has what is known to be her first painting, "Portrait de Triestine (Portrait of a Triestine Woman)". In 1939, Fini organized a show at Leo Castelli's Galerie Drouin, creating an armoire ("Armoire Anthropomorphe") and painted doors ("La peinture and l'architecture", shown below) for the show, both of which are on display at the Gallery.
The bulk of the exhibit lies downstairs, with Fini's self-portrait of herself as the sphinx on display downstairs. The exhibit isn't so much chronological as grouped by style, and over 70 years, Fini's style ran the gamut from portraiture to surrealism to illustration. An abstract period lines one wall, works painting between the mid-50s and early 70s, including the stunning "La garde du dragon (The Guard of the Dragon)". The 60 and 70s also included less abstract work, with paintings depicting sexually tense and erotic scenes.
"L'Eau endormie (The Water of Sleep)", 1962
Fini's later work, from the late-70s through her death in 1996, is the most haunting of all, with pastel, ethereal bodies floating on dark canvases. There's something haunting about the faces in all of her work, but here, in pieces like "Passager V (Passenger V)", the ghostly, somber faces dominate the work.
Leonor Fini: Une Grande Curiosité is a beautiful exhibit and worth visiting more than just as a break from Union Square holiday shopping.