Two typewriters, both Corona portables, have gone on display in museums in the past few weeks – one, a Groton-made Corona 3 folding, is in Shanghai, and the other, a West Bromwich-made plastic fantastic SCM, is in Mexico City. They belonged to two very different people, though both did much for major 20th Century movements – Communism and Feminism.
The Corona in Shanghai forms part of the centenary-marking Memorial for the Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It was, the organisers say, the typewriter used by Li Dazhao, or Li Ta-chao (1889-1927), to type up party documents. Li was a Chinese intellectual who took part in the New Cultural Movement in the early years of the Republic of China, established in 1912, and co-founded the Communist Party of China with Chen Duxiu in July 1921. However, seven years ago a later model Corona portable (a four-bank) was on display at the Li Dazhao Memorial Hall in Li’s birthplace, Laoting County, Hebei Province.
From 1914-16, Li attended Waseda University in Tokyo, but was expelled for taking part in the campaign against Yuan Shikai's imperial endeavors. Li returned to China in 1916 and served as a newspaper editor in Beijing. In January 1918 he was hired by Cai Yuanpei to be the head of the library at Beijing University and became a professor of politics, history and economics there. He influenced students during the May Fourth Movement 1919, including Mao Zedong, who worked as an assistant in the library's reading room. Under the leadership of Li and Chen, the CPC developed a close relationship with the Soviet controlled Comintern. Directed by the Comintern, Li and Chen joined the Nationalist Party (Kuomintangin, or KMT) in 1922 and forged a close tie with Sun Yat-sen to form a United Front. Li was elected to the KMT's Central Executive Committee in Guangzhou in January 1924 and visited the Soviet Union late that year. In 1926 he was forced to take refuge in the Soviet Embassy in Beijing. When the United Front collapsed in 1927, Zhang Zuolin of the Fengtian clique ordered a raid on the embassy. Zhang had Li and 19 others, both Nationalists and Communists, executed by strangulation on April 28, 1927.
The much later model Corona portable went on display at the end of last month in the former home and studio of British-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter and novelist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011). Carrington lived there for more than 60 years. It is now open to the public as a museum, to show some of her works and possessions. More than 8600 objects have been catalogued. Pablo Weisz Carrington, son of the late painter and sculptor, sold the house to the Autonomous Metropolitan University on condition it be converted into a museum. The museum in Colonia Roma has on display 45 sculptures and other works and possessions, including the typewriter, donated by Pablo.
Mary Leonora Carrington was born at Westwood House, Clayton Green, Chorley, Lancashire, England, the daughter of a wealthy textile manufacturer. Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from two schools for her rebellious behaviour. Her family sent her to Florence, where she attended Mrs Penrose's Academy of Art. In 1935, she attended the Chelsea School of Art in London for one year, and with the help of her father's friend Serge Chermayeff, she was able to transfer to the Ozenfant Academy of Fine Arts established by the French modernist Amédée Ozenfant in London.
In 1936 Carrington saw the work of the German artist Max Ernst at the International Surrealist Exhibition in London and was attracted to Ernst before she even met him. They met at a party in London in 1937. The artists bonded and returned together to Paris, where Ernst promptly separated from his wife. In 1938 they left Paris and settled in Saint Martin d'Ardèche in southern France. The couple collaborated and supported each other's artistic development. Soon after the Nazis invaded France, Ernst was arrested by the Gestapo because his art was considered to be “degenerate”. He managed to escape and, leaving Carrington behind, fled to the United States with the help of arts sponsor Peggy Guggenheim. After Ernst's arrest Carrington was devastated and agreed to go to Spain with a friend, Catherine Yarrow. She stayed with family friends in Madrid until her paralyzing anxiety and delusions led to a psychotic breakdown and she was admitted to an asylum. She was given “convulsive therapy” and was treated with the drugs cardiazol and Luminal. She was released from the asylum into the care of a keeper, and was told that her parents had decided to send her to a sanatorium in South Africa. En route to South Africa, she stopped in Portugal, where she made her escape. She went to the Mexican Embassy to find Renato Leduc, a poet and Mexican Ambassador. Leduc was a friend of Pablo Picasso and agreed to a marriage of convenience with Carrington so that she would be accorded the immunity given to a diplomat's wife. Meanwhile, Ernst had married Guggenheim in New York in 1941. That marriage ended a few years later. Ernst and Carrington never resumed their relationship.
After a year in New York, Leduc and Carrington went to Mexico, which she grew to love and where she lived, on and off, for the rest of her life. She befriended painter Frida Kahlo, future Nobel laureate Octavio Paz and Hungarian photographer Kati Horna, and had a relationship with the émigré Spanish artist Remedios Varo. Carrington and Leduc divorced in 1943. Carrington later married Emerico “Chiki” Weisz, born in Hungary, a photographer and the darkroom manager for Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War. Carrington died on May 25, 2011, aged 94, in a hospital in Mexico City as a result of complications arising from pneumonia.