Remedios Varo

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I first learned of Remedios Varo while reading an article in a feminist newspaper about a rare exhibit of her work. I became fascinated with her and her work and started learning more about her. Remedios Varo was soon one of my favorite artists.

UNEXPECTED JOURNEYS: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo
I learned a lot about Varo by reading the book Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet A. Kaplan. Here’s a review I wrote of the book:

This book is incredible, awesome, amazing, fantastic, and wonderful. I do not have the words to say how good this book is.

It’s the biography of Remedios Varo, a female surrealist painter of whom most people have never heard. I found out about her when I read an article in the now defunt Sojourner newspaper about a very rare exhibit of her work in Chicago. From that moment, I was fascinated.

I don’t understand why I have heard of Magritte and Dali and Duchamp, but never Varos. Her work is just as good (better) than theirs. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s because she is a woman and hasn’t been taken seriously.

In any case, this book is a biography, and also includes many full color reproductions of her work. I go back to it again and again and just look at the pictures, which are mesmerizing and beautiful. This is one of those books that I want to hang on to forever.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hang on to the book forever, so I had to do some internet research to find information to share about Varo today, the anniversary of her birth.

Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista

Image of Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Woman leaving the psychoanalyst) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/mujer-saliendo-del-psicoanalista

According to the Totally History website (http://totallyhistory.com/remedios-varo/),

Remedios Varo Uranga, one of the world famous para-surrealist painters of the 20th Century, was born in 1908 in a small town called Angles in the province of Girona in Spain.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remedios_Varo) says,

Remedios Varo Uranga  was a Spanish-Mexican para-surrealist painter and anarchist.

Born in Girona, Spain in 1908, she studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband, the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, in Barcelona. She was forced into exile from Paris during the German occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She died in 1963, at the height of her career, from a heart attack, in Mexico City.

Nacer de nuevo

Image of Nacer de nuevo ( Born again) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/nascer-de-nuevo

A website dedicated to Varo (http://www.remediosvaro.org/varo.html) lists her influences:

Remedios Varo’s artistic influences included the work of Hieronymus Bosch…She was also influenced by styles in other realms including Picasso, Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Braque. Andre Breton was a formative influence in Varo’s understanding of Surrealism. Further artistic influence can be seen in her paintings of the modern Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. While in Mexico, Varo became influenced by the primitive art ancient Columbian culture…

Philosophically, Varo was influenced by a many [sic] mystic traditions of both Eastern and Western society. She studied the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff, C. G. Jung, Ouspensky, Sufis, H. Blavatsky, and Meister Eckhart. The legend of the Holy Grail fascinated Varo along with sacred geometry and alchemy. She believed that through each of these there was a path self-enlightenment and the transformation of consciousness.

Although I was most attracted to the beautiful yet creepy quality of Varo’s art, I was also attracted to her as a person. She had a variety of lovers throughout her life (although she never divorced her first husband), and she was an anarchist and a feminist. The aforementioned Totally History webpage says,

[Varo] was not only a surrealist but also an anarchist. She believed that the state was an unnecessary evil that opposed the conduct of human relations…This philosophy was also reflected in her isolationist art style…

Feminism was another school of thought that influenced the art style of [Varo]. At the time when she was a surrealist painter, the male surrealist did not see their female counterparts as talented. T[h]is created an environment where female artists were isolated. The misconceived talents of the women were reflected in her art as images of sad women in isolated and confined places. This was her way of responding to the feminine injustices in the world of art at the time.

Although nothing can replace viewing art in person, it’s easy to see much Varo’s work just by doing a few web searches. In honor of the birth of Remedios Varo, I hope you will seek out more of her art and maybe come to a better understanding of why I appreciate it so much.

 

 

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