I’m going to get this out of the way. Leonor Fanny Borges Acevedo, or Norah for short, had a famous brother who wrote a bunch of stuff. I could talk about him, but I’m not going to. Women artists deserve to stand on their own, without having a brother or husband or father to give them legitimacy and attention. All I want to talk about is Norah Borges and her art.
Norah Borges was born in 1901 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was outgoing, adventurous, and daring. She moved to Switzerland as a child so her father could receive specialized medical treatment there. Then World War I started and the family was stuck in Europe. While the Borges clan twiddled their thumbs, Norah attended the Ecole Des Beaux-Artes in Geneva. In 1915, Borges wrote and illustrated her first book of poetry, ‘Notas Lejanas.’ She studied with Maurice Sarkisoff and Arnaldo Bossi, among many others. Borges then traveled to Spain and began to do work for magazines involved in the Ultraism movement and illustrated books of poetry. In 1921, Borges returned to Buenos Aires. A surrealist magazine, ‘Manometre,’ published pictures of her paintings in 1923. Her work was again published one year later in the Argentinean literature magazine, ‘Martin Fierro.’ In 1926, Borges showed over 75 paintings, drawings, wood carvings, and other works in the Asociacion Amigos del Arte exhibition. She got married in 1928 to Guillermo del Torre, an author and artist also involved in Ultraism. During World War II, Borges actively and loudly supported la Junta de la Victoria, an anti-fascist feminist group. She spoke out against president Juan Domingo Peron and went to jail. After being released, Borges went right back to illustrating books and making art. She also served as art critic for the Anales de Buenos Aires under a male pseudonym, because, you know, a woman couldn’t possibly know anything about art. Sigh. Norah Borges died in 1998. Over the course of her life, she illustrated almost 80 books, had illustrations in several Avant Garde magazines, and was an artistic pioneer in the Avant Garde and Ultraism movements.
Borges, despite being prolific and active for decades, did not exhibit often and preferred to give her works away instead of selling them. Perhaps this contributes to the rarity of seeing her art in museums and her obscurity as an artist. But, her work is beautiful and deserves notice and appreciation. Ultraism railed against modernism and sentimentalism, and rejected ornamental aspects and lack of substance. Borges embraced these ideas and added many of her own. Her style also incorporated expressionism, cubism, and futurism. When at the Ecole des Beaux-Artes, Sarkisoff told Borges to reject the rules of art school and to forge her own style and artistic path. She certainly did that. Borges was an artistic trailblazer, a kickass artist, a proud feminist and activist, and managed to put up with decades of whiny poets and their poetry. You’re a better woman than I, Norah Borges.