Penrose, Valentine (1898–1978) By Marwood, Kimberley
Valentine Penrose was born Valentine Boué in south-west France. She met and married Roland Penrose in 1925. Her small oeuvre consists of poems influenced by surrealist writers such as Paul Éluard and collages inspired by Max Ernst, whom she encountered through her husband, who was a champion of the surrealist movement. The first English translation of Penrose’s collected work, Poems and Narrations, appeared in 1977 containing the works Dons des Féminines [Gifts of the Feminine] (1951) and Martha’s Opera (1945).
Penrose’s poems are often supplemented by collages. By using similar source material to Max Ernst, Penrose parodies his collages, focusing on female relationships and thus giving power and prominence to women rather than men. This is a theme she subsequently returned to in her major literary work, La Comtesse Sanglante (1962, later published as The Bloody Countess in English in 1970), a semi-historical account of the life of Erszébet Bathory. Her marriage to Roland broke down in 1934 and they were divorced in 1937. Roland later married model and photographer Lee Miller, with whom Penrose remained friends. She returned to live with the couple at Farley Farm in East Sussex, where she died in 1978.