Carringtion in Review -

film oversimplifies artist's life

(Movie Review)

by Kenneth Athon

If you think your love life is a shambles, consider the case of Dora
Carrington.
	Born 1893 in England, Dora idolized her elderly father and
practically hated her mother. Not educated formally in the British
sense of the word, she nevertheless was able to attend a school of
fine arts, where she developed her drawing and painting skills
admirably. It was there that she began wearing her hair in a short
"bob" style -- the equivalent of today's teens' blue hair and pierced
noses -- and insisted on being called, simply, Carrington.
	At art school, she was so popular that she had two suitors,
who happened also to be best friends. Their love for Carrington
ultimately destroyed their friendship. Both tried without success to
simply seduce her and when that failed after years -- not just weeks
or months but years -- of trying, both proposed marriage. Perhaps for
the sake of the friendships and not wanting to alienate either of the
boys, she steadfastly remained a virgin despite attempts by several
mutual friends to convince her otherwise, and she married neither.
	It was while still courting the more persistent of her young
suitors, that she met an older writer, Lytton Strachey. It was an odd,
awkward meeting; Strachey, seeing Carrington from afar, thought she
was a young man and was literally speechless when he was formally
introduced to her. Later, while Strachey was trying to convince
Carrington that her suitor was right for her, she professed her love
for Strachey instead. It mattered not to her that Strachey was
homosexual. In fact, she offered her virginity first to him, but he
was impotent at the thought of hetero-sex.
	Carrington was full of contradictions. She was a pacifist, yet
professed a willingness to serve England in World War I, simply for
the sake of service. She was heterosexual (primarily) but would
neither marry nor consummate her relationships for the sake of
love. When she did marry, it was for the sake of bringing her bisexual
husband into a more permanent place in Strachey's -- not her own --
life. While married, she allowed her husband to have a live-in
mistress while she carried on secret affairs.
	While she could remain aloof from her suitors, husband and
lovers, she was utterly devoted to Strachey. Drawings, sketches and
paintings of Strachey adorned every wall in her house. It was, as she
described, a self-debasing love, the love that puts self not second
but last, an love wherein she not only doted on Strachey, but nursed
his every ailment and even bathed him.
	The new movie, Carrington, by the screenwriter of Dangerous
Liaisons, is a sad portrait of the artist who could find no adequate
meaning for her life other than loving men, principally Strachey, who
could not love her with the same intensity. The story is framed, not
by the development of her art or by some other measure, but by the men
who were the center of her short life.
	It's unfortunate that the film cannot tell the whole story of
Carrington's life within this framework because it omits Carrington's
one love interest that surpassed those of the men who had pursued
her. In 1923, she fell in love with Henrietta Bingham, the daughter of
the American ambassador. In a letter to a friend, Carrington related,
"I am very much more taken with Henrietta than I have been with anyone
for a long time. I feel now regrets at being such a blasted fool in
the past, to stifle so many lusts I had in my youth, for various
females." Carrington's biographer, Gretchen Gerzina, reports that
Henrietta and Carrington were lovers, at least for a short while.
	The film, Carrington, opened nationwide in November. Despite
its historical shortcomings, if the movie comes to a theater near you,
see it. Stay for the final credits to see examples of Carrington's
art, which is now coveted by collectors.


This article was distributed by the New Lesbian and Gay Voice.  The
author of this review, Kenneth Athon is founder of Nashville,
Tennessee's g/l/b weekly newspaper, XENOGENY, and has been active in
gay causes for two decades. He and his partner now reside in
Minneapolis.  [Copyright 1995 by Kenneth Athon.]


[thistle homepage] [Volume 9] [9.15 - contents]