In case you’re wondering why today’s Google Doodle depicts a crocodile-shaped boat bearing five small crocodiles and being rowed by a larger sixth, look no further than the work of surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, who would have been 98 on Monday.
The painting, titled How Doth the Little Crocodile and based on a similarly titled poem by Lewis Carroll, is emblematic of the iconic artist’s strange and wonderful style. Born in Lancashire in 1917, Carrington was attracted to art despite considerable opposition from her wealthy textile manufacturer father. She eloped with renowned German surrealist painter Max Ernst in 1937, and the couple moved to Paris together.
When Ernst was arrested at the outbreak of World War II (before moving to America and marrying art patron Peggy Guggenheim), a devastated Carrington fled to Spain and subsequently made her way to Lisbon, New York City and finally Mexico City, where she lived until her death in 2011.
“The walls of one Manhattan gallery last week were hopping with demons,” wrote TIME magazine in 1948, reviewing one of her exhibitions. “Feathery, hairy, horny, half-luminous creatures merged imperceptibly into birds, animals and plants. Painted with cobweb delicacy, they conspired and paraded before misty landscapes and night skies thick with floating islands.
“All the pictures had two things in common: an overall melancholy and the signature, Leonora Carrington, in one corner.”