On learning of the death this week of the last surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington at the ripe old age of 94, I did a little background research and was amazed to discover what a bizarre life she led. She hung out with Picasso, fled the Nazis and escaped from a psychiatric hospital but it was her love affair with Max Ernst that I thought would interest you.
Born into a very wealthy background in 1917, Leonora was expelled from several convents for her “eccentricity, usually a combination of anti-social tendencies and certain supernatural proclivities.” At the age of 19 she met and fell in love with the much older and married Max Ernst, one of the leaders of the Dada and Surrealist movements.
In 1937 Max and Leonora visited the village of Mawnan, Cornwall where they are said to have performed rituals to invoke the appearance of therianthorpes (half-man half-animal). One of these was said to be the Nightjarman a half bird, half human creature. The birdman was to become a recurrent iconic theme in Ernst’s artwork and also featured in some of Leonora’s work. Max and Leonora led a bizarre tempestuous life but eventually went their separate ways.
In 1976, Ernst died but a couple of weeks after his death, some peculiar sightings were reported in Mawnan. Don Melling had been visiting the area on holiday from Lancaster with his family when his two daughters, 12-year-old June and her 9-year-old sister, Vicky, were walking through the woods near the church. Suddenly the two girls saw a large winged creature hovering above the church tower.
Paranormal researcher Tony “Doc” Shiels who was in the area interviewed the girls and produced a sketch based on what the girls reported. The Owlman of Mawnan had been born. Soon there were other reports of the strange creature. The last sighting was in the 1990s but the Cornish Owlman has become established folklore.
Now that Leonora has also died, I wonder if we will now hear reports of two owls around the village?