No female artist operating in mid-20th century Paris did so with as much verve as Leonor Fini (1907-96). A painter, stage designer and self-styled dandy, Fini achieved fame and celebrity by translating her dreams into paintings that combined elements of German Romanticism, Pre-Raphaelite painting, Venetian Mannerism and New Objectivity. Her camped-up fusion of these styles, rendered in smooth, flat paint, and with faces radiating an almost Frau Angelico glow, depicted scenes of sex, fantasy and transgression infused with mythological overtones.
Not long after arriving in Paris at age 24, the Argentina-born, Trieste-raised artist became a magnet for major figures of the inter-war and post-WWII years, including, among the surrealists, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, Dorothea Tanning, Hans Bellmer, Max Ernst, Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, Giorgio de Chirico, Leonora Carrington and others. All, apart from Breton who she disliked for his sexism, homophobia and bullying, considered her a close friend. So did authors (de Sade, Bataille, Genet), designers (Elsa Schiaparelli), choreographers (Balanchine) and filmmakers (Fellini, John Huston) with whom she collaborated. They found her intellect and unconventional beauty irresistible.