Brain Pickings

The Gorgeous Art of Norah Borges, Jorge Luis Borges’s Younger Sister


Soulful drawings by a little-known pioneer of modern art.

Few people know that literary titan Jorge Luis Borges had a sister, and even fewer that Leonor Fanny Borges Acevedo (1901–1998), better-known under the pseudonym Norah Borges, was an acclaimed artist in her own right, who emerged in the 1920s as one of the female pioneers of modern art. (In many regards, Norah was to Jorge Luis what the acclaimed Bloomsbury artist Vanessa Bell was to her sister, Virginia Woolf.) During her lifetime, Borges illustrated close to eighty books, including some of her brother’s, in addition to editorial illustrations for a number of avant-garde magazines belonging to ultraísmo — the first major avant-garde movement in Spain, comprising an eclectic group of writers and artists influenced by Italian futurism.

Norah (age 7) and Jorge Luis (age 9) at the Buenos Aires zoo, 1908

Her soulful paintings and drawings, the earliest of which is collected in the out-of-print Spanish-language volume Norah Borges: Obra Gráfica [Norah Borges: Graphic Work] (public library; AbeBooks), spans more than seven decades and is nothing short of breathtaking:

Complement these with MoMA’s Modern Women, a celebration of pioneering women in modern art.

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