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Dear Diary—Never Since We Left Prague

When Carrington attended art school in Florence, she became enchanted with Italian Renaissance artists like Fra Angelico. She was intrigued by their use of tempera paint, perspective, and symbolism. Compare the perspective of Dear Diary—Never Since We Left Prague and The Nativity.
Fra Angelico (Fra Giovanni da Fiesole), The Nativity, 1425–30, tempera on poplar panel, Bequest of Miss Tessie Jones in memory of Herschel V. Jones

Look at the loom on the left side of Dear Diary—Never Since We Left Prague. Then look at the headdress of the Moche warrior of this vessel. As an artist living in Mexico, absorbing images and ideas from local and international cultures, Carrington may have chosen this design to refer to a Mayan sun symbol.
Peru, Moche, Vessel, 5th–6th century, ceramic, paint, Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund


key idea

Fascinated with stories from an early age, Leonora Carrington remembered writing and illustrating magical tales from her own imagination at age 4. As an adult, Carrington would explore the idea of painting as a type of magical practice; mixing the paint is like making a potion, and painting on canvas is creating a new, imagined world.

Carrington's mother, grandmother, and Irish nanny raised her on Irish fairy tales, mythology, and Catholic mysticism, in addition to imaginative classics such as Alice in Wonderland. She recounted: "My [maternal] grandmother used to tell me we were descendants of that ancient race that magically started to live underground when their land was taken by invaders with different political and religious ideas. They preferred to retire underground where they are dedicated to magic and alchemy, knowing how to change gold." (Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, Susan L. Aberth, Lund Humphries, 2010) These ancient people, known as the Sidhe, (pronounced "shee") are described as slender, beautiful, intelligent, and graceful. They possess magical powers, such as shape-shifting, and live their lives parallel to human society. Perhaps the mysterious people in Dear Diary—Never Since We Left Prague are the Sidhe?

The figures at the table appear to be playing a game of chance, with a die and a serpent on a ladder—perhaps a reference to the game Snakes and Ladders, which originated in India. They are intent on the game. Or is it a magical ritual?

As a life-long learner, Carrington was interested in developing her own imagination; she continuously sought out ideas, philosophies, and images to incorporate into her visual art. In Mexico, she drew on influences from colonial Spanish as well as Indian culture, healers, and spiritualists, and added these to her knowledge of folk and fairy tales, psychology, and world religions.

May 2012