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Fini retrospective adorns Geneva Book Fair

Fini's Les trois amies. Spaightwood Galleries

The Geneva Book Fair is about much more than literature and publishing. Among the highlights for visitors this year is a major exhibition of works by the Argentine-Italian painter, Leonor Fini.

Around 100 oil paintings, sketches and lithographs, most of them from private collections, are being shown in this unprecedented exhibition, which demonstrates not only Fini’s instantly recognisable individual style, but also the rich diversity of her work.

The canvasses, which come from all stages of her career, are dominated by the female body, often conveying a sense of mysterious, erotic and almost feline grace. Indeed, Fini was also well known for her paintings of cats.

Fini is in fine company. In previous years, the Book Fair has featured exhibitions by Picasso and Miró. Last year, it was the turn of the German expressionists.

While Fini’s work at times resembles that of another Spanish artist, Salvador Dalí, the paintings on show in Geneva display a less playful and more philosophical side to her work. Like Dalí, she uses imagery – eggs, flowers, skulls – to explore themes such as love and death.

Fini was born in Buenos Aires in 1908 and was brought up in Trieste by her Italian mother. She went to Paris at the age of 17 and there befriended Paul Eluard, Max Ernst and Georges Bataille.

Despite this, it is a moot point whether Fini ever really belonged to the surrealist movement. She was self-taught and she developed her own distinctive style, which she translated to other fields, notably costume and set design for venues such as the Paris Opéra, La Scala in Milan and the Comédie-Française.

Such was her influence that celebrated artists and writers such as Eluard, Cocteau, Moravia, de Chirico and Ernst dedicated works to her. No fewer that nine films were based on her works.

Fini continued to paint until her death in 1997.

by Roy Probert

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR