Following her recent success of her retrospective at the Museum of Sex, titled Theatre of Desire ,
1930-1990, and a renewed interest in works, Leila Heller Gallery is pleased to present a solo installation
featuring works by Leonor Fini (1907-1996), one of the most significant female artists of the twentieth
Brought up in Italy, Fini examined Renaissance and Mannerist paintings and took an interest in morbid
subject matter, often depicting cadavers at the local morgue. Without formal artistic training, her
studies inspired the elongated limbs and forms of her figures. Her resulting works, culled from fantasy
and mythological images, i.e. the sphinx, reflect her idea of beauty through a dominant feminine gaze
by presenting women as subjects with,not of, desire and male nudes featuring androgynous
characteristics. A phenomenon much like what we see today in the art world, where traditional/social
conventions are rejected — the exploration of identity and artistic expression remain unaltered.
Fini produced in the Surrealist style as one of the few women exhibiting alongside Salvador Dalí and
Max Ernst. For all intents and purposes, Fini was very much so a woman ahead of her time challenging
conventions in a male-dominated field, capturing the dichotomy between the masculine and the
feminine. Upon first glance of her works, there is a flirtatious humor about them commonly found
across the Surrealism genre; however, a deeper understanding unearths darker contextual meaning.
Working during a time when women wielded less freedoms than they do today, Fini translated the
dialogue surrounding unequal standards of gender — that between the roles men and women play in
positions of power — into the vocabulary of art. In doing so, her commentary explores this larger issue
through the lens of eroticism, investigating notions of dominance, inducement, submission, and
Fini’s past paints a picture of a bonafide revolutionary in her own rite: a self-taught artist with an
obsessive interest in the macabre, the suggestive, and the taboo. With an innate ability to deconstruct
and repurpose all that she sees firsthand, Fini appropriates, stylistically, the rich palette of the Pre-
Raphaelites and the flatness of Flemish art for her uses.
ABOUT LEONOR FINI
Leonor Fini (1907-1996) was born in Buenos Aires,Argentina, and raised in Trieste, Italy. Fini’s fledging
attempts at painting in Trieste led her to Milan, where she participated in her first group exhibition in
1929, and then to Paris in 1931. Her first major exhibition was in 1936 in New York at Julian Levy’s
Gallery. Fini was associated with the likes of Picasso, Henri-Cartier Besson, and Giorgio de Chirico who
inspired much of her work.