As you walk down Mexico City’s Paseo de Reforma Avenue, you may notice a bizarre sculpture of a crew of five crocodilian beasts riding in a crocodile-headed boat that is being propelled by yet another crocodile carrying a punt. The sculpture weighs five tons and is made of bronze. This strange work of art was created by the great Leonora Carrington, an English surrealist artist who is well-known in Mexico, but largely forgotten in Europe. She donated this piece to Mexico City in 2000.
Leonora Carrington was born in 1917 in Lancashire, and was the daughter of a wealthy local industrialist. As a child, she had a rebellious nature that cared little for the conventions and rules of middle-class Edwardian society. Leonora’s passion for art as a means of self-expression was also evident from an early age.
As she grew older, despite the efforts of her father and a host of school governesses to change her rebellious ways, Carrington continued to be drawn to the world of art. Especially to the artistic movement of surrealism that was sweeping across 1930s Europe.
Carrington became a painter and her work was soon being exhibited at shows as far away as New York. However, it was her encounter with the famous German surrealist painter Max Ernst that changed her life. After a meeting at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London of 1937, the two soon became lovers.
At the outbreak of World War II, Ernst was detained by German forces but later managed to escape and fled to the United States. However, he left Carrington behind. She decided to go to Spain to escape before returning to England.
The escape from France took a psychological toll on Carrington. She suffered a mental breakdown and was sent to an asylum. After being released into the care of a nurse, Carrington relocated to Lisbon, where she escaped said nurse and took sanctuary in the Mexican embassy. There, she met Mexican ambassador and writer, Renato Leduc, a friend of Pablo Picasso. The two arranged a marriage of convenience, which allowed Carrington to travel to Mexico where she received immunity as a diplomat’s wife. She would spend the next years of her life creating art and splitting her time between New York and Mexico. In 2011, Carrington died from complications resulting from pneumonia at 94 years old.
Know Before You Go
The sculpture is located in Paseo de Reforma and is free to see.