Surreal Lovers

Surreal Lovers: Eight Women Integral to the Life of Max Ernst

SURREAL LOVERS recounts the lives of eight creative and innovative women, Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Leonor Fini, Meret Oppenheim, Luise Straus, Peggy Guggenheim, Marie-Berthe Aurenche and Gala Dali, during the most exhilarating and treacherous of times, when all loved and were loved by the enigmatic Surrealist painter Max Ernst.

Emphasizing the human element in their interwoven lives, this book traces the lovers’ interactions with each other and their circle – including Lee Miller, Man Ray, Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, Marcel Duchamp and others – from the volatile eruption of Dada through the halcyon days of Surrealism in 1930s Paris to its demise in 1940s New York; when they made great art and lost, found and abandoned one another in the process.

La Fábrica, Madrid, 2017; D.A.P., New York, 2018; 376pps, ills, bibliography, index, ISBN: 978-8417048006



Marie-Berthe Aurenche, Max Ernst, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Paris, 1929


Max arrived in Lisbon desperate to find Leonora. After checking into the Hotel Frankfort on the Plaza del Rossio near the city centre, he emerged into the bright light of the main square to get his bearings. It was mild spring weather, cooler than Marseille, perfect for wandering the steep cobbled streets. Like Marseille, the place was crawling with refugees and secret agents, but food was plentiful and the Nazis for now were few and far between. For exiles like Max, with papers and money in their pockets, the port city on the Atlantic with its pleasant shady plazas and abundance of sidewalk cafés was an agreeable place to be.

There had been an exchange of telegrams with Catherine Yarrow while Max was in Marseille and he knew Leonora was still living in the city. Within a couple of days, he had located her in an apartment building on a hilly street with a distant view of the sea, where she was living with Renato Leduc. It was almost a year to the day since he had last seen her, but what he expected to be a joyous reunion was far from it. He described his profound disappointment in a letter to Leonor Fini written the following day: “Once again my life is a mess. I have found (and lost) Leonora”…



Leonor Fini, New York, 1936


“This is an engaging and thoroughly readable account of some of the most colorful lives of the mid-Twentieth Century. Hooks has assembled a jewelled mosaic full of light and detail …
Margaret Hooks is an excellent guide through these lives … She treats her subjects with compassion, respect, humor, and a phenomenal amount of research.”

– Jeff Beddow, writer & photographer at “Words & Pictures”

“Just finished ‘Surreal Lovers’. Fascinating insight, diligently researched. Answered a lot of questions I had about Ernst!”

– Wendy G, writer at “Travels with my art”


Leonora Carrington, 1940s


“Essential for any Ernst and Surrealism fan:
I have read many books on Ernst and the DaDa/Surrealists of the early 20th century. One failing all these books have in common is they get so focused on the artwork, that they leave out details of Ernst as a human, with all the failings that come with it …

Hooks works through the stories of the women in his life and with such detail. She has a way of moving these stories along that I lost sleep getting to each new chapter … answers so many questions I’ve had over the years that I for once feel truly satisfied with Ernst’s life story.”

– Stuart Pearson, Los Angeles

Peggy Guggenheim, Paris,1939


“Fascinating collective biography of Surrealist artists:
(This) book is definitely nonfiction – Hooks gives sources for all her quotes informally in the text and in more detail at the end – but it really does ‘read like a novel’.

All these people led interesting, often rather gaudy, lives, so they are fun to read about, and they are bound to be fascinating to anyone with an interest in Surrealism or the history of 20th-century art.”

– Lisa Yount, author & artist at “Lionlight”

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