Farewell to the Muse Love, War, and the Women of Surrealism

Whitney Chadwick

Now available in paperback, a fascinating look at the ambitions and friendships of a talented group of midcentury women artists by celebrated author Whitney Chadwick.

Farewell to the Muse documents what it meant to be a young, ambitious woman during an avant-garde movement defined by celebrated men. Focusing on the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, art historian Whitney Chadwick charts the lives of five female surrealists—connecting their experiences with art, friendship, and war. This vivid account, now in paperback, includes the fascinating story of Claude Cahun and Suzanne Malherbe in occupied Jersey, as well as the experiences of Lee Miller and Valentine Penrose at the frontline. Through Chadwick’s narrative it becomes clear that loss and trauma shaped these women’s transitions from someone else’s muse to mature artists in their own right.

Chadwick draws on personal correspondence between the women, including the extraordinary letters between Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini during the months following the arrest and imprisonment of Carrington’s lover Max Ernst as well as the letter Frida Kahlo shared with her friend and lover Jacqueline Lamba years after it was written in the late 1930s.

This history brings a new perspective to the political context of surrealism as well as fresh insights on the vital importance of female friendship to its progress.



— Wall Street Journal

Farewell to the Muse is …full of tantalizing, borderline lascivious, yet essential detail.

— San Francisco Chronicle


Whitney Chadwick


Whitney Chadwick is a professor emerita at San Francisco State University. Among her other books are Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement and Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership.