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Rare Books & Special Collections

Norah Borges (1901-1998)

Through the generosity of Robert O'Grady, the Department of Special Collections is pleased to own an extensive collection of correspondence written by the artist Norah Borges to her cousin, Esther Haedo de Amorim. The letters cover a period of forty years, and chronicle her daily life with a husband, children, and art exhibits. Catalogs from her art exhibits as well as notes from Guillermo de la Torre and Jorge Luis Borges can also occasionally be found.

Biographical Information

Born Leonor Fanny Borges, as a child 'Norah' quickly assumed command of her intimate friendship with her older brother, Jorge Luis. Through their creative childhood games the future artists invented a fantastical world based in their gated family garden, a setting that would later influence both of their work.

While Jorge Luis excelled in literature, Norah excelled in the arts, expressing her interpretation of Buenos Aires and Europe through drawing, woodcuts, and painting. Her formal training began in her early teens, when the family moved from Buenos Aires to Switzerland. The School of Fine Arts in Geneva taught Norah the strict geometric principles of the Academy, yet her work was quickly recognized as innovative, prompting teacher Maurice Sarkisoff to urge her to develop her own unique style. Throughout the family's time in Europe Norah came under such varied influences as Leonardo Da Vinci, German Expressionism, and Picasso.

Jorge's involvement with the ultraist magazines Prisma y Proa provided her with the opportunity to have her illustrations published. She was often called upon to illustrate to the book jackets of works by her brother and their circle of friends, including Aldofo Bioy Casares. Many of these covers can be found in the Southern Cone Literature Collection. Norah consistently held successful art exhibits throughout her life, and balanced these endeavors with marriage when, at the age of 27 she married the Spanish literary critic Guillermo de la Torre. Together they had two sons, and the family maintained its permanent home in Buenos Aires until the time of Norah's death in 1998.

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Description of Archival Collection (MSH/SCL 1052-1 to 1052-78)

The Department holds a collection of correspondence written from Norah to her cousin, Esther Haedo de Amorim, who lived in El Salto, Uruguay. The letters from Norah begin on March 31, 1932, and chronicle her daily life with a husband, children, and art exhibits until the early 1970s. Several letters are written on catalogs from her exhibits, and some Christmas cards appear to have been written on prints of her work. Notes from Guillermo de la Torre to Esther's husband can occasionally be found. In addition, Norah expresses her concern over Argentina's political troubles as the country undergoes numerous changes.

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Nelson, Daniel E. "Norah Borges: On the Margins of the text." in A Woman's Gaze: Latin American Women Artists. Marjorie Agosín, ed. Fredonia, NY: White Wine Press, 1998. 29-53. (Hesburgh Library, Reference: NX 501.5 .W66 1998)

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