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For the Library: The Tarot of Leonora Carrington

Here’s one way to brighten up your coffee table: a compendium of gilded designs by the eccentric British-Mexican painter

For the Library: The Tarot of Leonora Carrington

In this series, Inigo recommends timely releases from the world’s best art and design publishers, highlighting inspiring titles that deserve a spot on your interior mood board as much as your bookshelves. We believe, after all, that beautifying the home is an art, not a science.

It should come as no surprise that the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington was intrigued by all matters of the occult. Her paintings, after all, are haunted by nightmarish, half-human creatures, while her oeuvre of short stories (also excellent, by the way) hum with quasi-magical happenings, from ominous storms, to ghostly hunts to crafty talking animals.

It was, however, Carrington’s particular affinity, with gypsies – who she believed were her distant ancestors – that led her towards cartomancy, and, consequently, to the creation of her own Tarot deck in the mid-1950s. These 22 cards combine the potent symbolism of the Minor Arcana with Carrington’s own, fantasmagorical take on matters of fate and destiny.

This deck is the focus of The Tarot of Leonora Carrington, a new book from the artsy esoteric publisher Fulgur Press. Opening with an introduction penned by the artist’s son Gabriel Weisz Carrington, the 120-page title features full-sized reproductions of all 22 cards, originally fabricated from humble sheets of paperboard before being spectacularly embellished with oil paints and lustrous gold and silver leaf.

As well as unlocking the secrets to every reader’s fate (if you believe in that sort of thing), the book offers an intriguing new insight into one of the most fascinating minds of the 20th century. The in-depth essay that accompanies the images, by Carrington experts Susan Aberth and Tere Arcq, sees Carrington’s Tarot as a medium (the word here is particularly appropriate) through which to interpret the complex underlying themes of her wider canon of work. But it’s also, quite simply, a beautiful object, its images joyously revelling in their combinations of bright colour, subtle line-drawn textures and shining metallic surfaces. All in all, it’s enough to make you wonder whether, perhaps, we could all do with just a touch more gold leaf in our lives.

Images, top to bottom:

XVII. The Star, Oil and gold leaf on board, c.1955, 16 × 14 cm; XIX. The Sun, Oil and gold leaf on board, c.1955, 16 × 14 cm; XVIII. The Moon, Oil and silver leaf on board, c.1955, 16 × 14 cm; 0. The Fool, Oil on board, c.1955, 16 × 14 cm. All images by Leonora Carrington, courtesy of Fulgur Press – copyright Estate of Leonora Carrington/ARS, New York.


Further Reading

Fulgur Press

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Leonora Carrington, trans. Katherine Talbot

Leonora Carrington, Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, Susan L. Aberth

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