Edward James: Poet – Architect

From “Leonora Carrington: A Retrospective Exhibition” (1975) – excerpts from Introduction by Edward James:

Not to be Reproduced a Portrait of Edward James by René Magritte

Not to be Reproduced a Portrait of Edward James by René Magritte

“Leonora’s work is no pastiche of the 16th century.  Its similarity is rather due to the fact that Leonora Carrington was endowed from birth with the versatility of a Renaissance man [Women’s Lib having not yet reared its head].

The fact is that Leonora epitomizes the woman of our latter-day Renaissance.  She is, I firmly believe, a forerunner (now this will annoy critics, but we cannot help it) of the Age of Aquarius…Among the young, especially in America, there are signs of reaction against the early 20th century worship of mass conformity.

…Also in art, though not yet in the sciences or in literary criticism, the insistence on specialization will soon no longer be de rigueur.  We may yet live to see a world in which creative people are no longer pigeonholed in tight compartments such as: “Oh! He’s the man who paints coloured squares!”…

During the 1930s, long before I met Leonora, I was very close to Picasso in Paris.  At the same time, Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali lived as my guests in my London house as did the Russian painter Tchelitchew.  Therefore, when I finally did meet Leonora, I felt myself qualified to recognize authentic talent, and the very fact that her work is so entirely unlike, so removed, so apart form the work of any of those old friends of mine, impresses me the more for the very reason that she owes so little to the avant garde art movements of the 1920s and 30s and nothing to the popular trend in art during the latter half of this century.  For   Leonora Carrington is one of those rare sports of nature, a spiritual mutation, who really cares so little about being discovered by the world that, if it were not for a certain vacuum which exists in the world of contemporary painting, her pictures would probably stay secluded within the possession of those fortunate collectors who simply snap them off her easel as soon as they are finished . . .

The Secret Life of Edward James (1978): Presented by George Melly

The Secret Life of Edward James, George Melly’s documentary film from 1975. The film is a biography of surrealist art collector Edward James. James was patron of René Magritte, Leonora Carrington and Salvador Dalí (the Mae West Lips sofa was originally designed for his house Monkton), and lived the only life a responsible aristocrat can lead: inventing impossibilities and flouting convention.

James’ life is a catalogue of incredible moments: the argument of his royal paternity, defacing his Lutyens-designed home with surrealist flair, his scandalous divorce and bisexual forays. All of this was a prelude to his final monument: Las Pozas. A surrealist sculpture garden filled with gigantic concrete structures that burst out of the Mexican jungle, it is full of needless and wonderful invention.

Not screened since its first appearance over 35 years, this film is a serious addition to the canon of British eccentricity. Jazz musician and art historian George Melly teases out James’ unique character as only a fellow member of the rarefied clan could.

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