Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo Uranga (16 December 1908 – 8 October 1963) 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. She is known as one of the world famous para-surrealist artists of the 20th Century.[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.






As a young woman Varo had no doubts that she was meant to be an artist. After spending a year in Paris, Varo moved to Barcelona and formed her first artistic circle of friends, which included Josep-Lluis Florit, Óscar Domínguez, and Esteban Francés. Varo soon separated from her husband and shared a studio with Francés, in a neighborhood filled with young avant-garde artists. The summer of 1935 marked Varo’s formal invitation into Surrealism when French surrealist Marcel Jean (fr) arrived in Barcelona. That same year, along with Jean and his artist friends, Dominguez and Francés, Varo created a surrealist game that was meant to explore the subconscious association of participants by pairing different images at random. These associations were called cadavres exquis, meaning exquisite corpses, and perfectly illustrated the principle André Breton wrote in his Surrealist manifestos. Varo soon joined a collective of artists and writers, called the Logicophobists, who had an interest in Surrealism and wanted to unite art together with metaphysics, while resisting logic and reason. Varo exhibited with this group in 1936 at the Galería Catalonia although she recognized they were not pure Surrealists.
When the Spanish Civil War began, the French Surrealist poet, Benjamin Peret, came to Barcelona to support the anti-Franco cause and met Varo. It was the beginning of an intensely romantic relationship that was recorded in the many letters declaring his love and publications dedicated to Varo. In 1937, Peret moved back to France, and Varo followed. It was in Paris where Varo was greatly influenced by the Surrealist Movement.
Only after her death was it discovered that Varo had never divorced her first husband Lizarraga.Due to her Republican ties, her 1937 move to Paris with Péret ensured that she would never be able to return to Franco's Spain.Before her move to Mexico in 1941, Varo was arrested in Paris due to Nazi occupation of France







Renaissance art inspired harmony, tonal nuances, unity, and narrative structure in Varo’s paintings. The allegorical nature of much of Varo's work especially recalls the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, and some critics, such as Dean Swinford, have described her art as "postmodern allegory," much in the tradition of Irrealism.
Varo was greatly influenced by her first and second husband, Gerardo Lizarraga and Benjamin Peret. Her first husband was a well-respected painter and her second husband was a surrealist poet.Varo was also influenced by styles as diverse as those of Francisco Goya, El Greco, Picasso, and Braque. While André Breton was a formative influence in her understanding of Surrealism, some of her paintings bear an uncanny resemblance to the Surrealist creations of the modern Greek-born Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico.While there is little overt influence of Mexican art on her work, Varo and the other surrealists were captivated by the seemingly porous borders between the marvelous and the real in Mexico.Varo's painting The Lovers served as inspiration for some of the images used by Madonna in the music video for her 1995 single "Bedtime Story"







She considered surrealism as an "expressive resting place within the limits of Cubism, and as a way of communicating the incommunicable".
Even though Varo was critical of her childhood religion, Catholicism, her work was influenced by religion. She differed from other Surrealists because of her constant use of religion in her work.She also turned to a wide range of mystic and hermetic traditions, both Western and non-Western for influence. She was influenced by her belief in magic and animistic faiths. She was very connected to nature and believed that there was strong relation between the plant, human, animal, and mechanical world. Her belief in mystical forces greatly influenced her paintings.Varo was aware of the importance of biology, chemistry, physics and botany, but thought it should blend together with other aspects of life.She turned with equal interest to the ideas of Carl Jung as to the theories of George Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Helena Blavatsky, Meister Eckhart and the Sufis, and was as fascinated with the legend of the Holy Grail as with sacred geometry, alchemy and the I Ching. In 1938 and 1939 Varo joined her closest companions Frances, Roberto Matta and Gordon Onslow Ford in exploring the fourth dimension, basing much of their studies off of Ouspensky's book Tertium Oganum. The books Illustrated Anthology of Sorcery, Magic and Alchemy by Grillot de Givry and The History of Magic and the Occult by Kurt Seligmann were highly valued in Breton's Surrealist circle. She saw in each of these an avenue to self-knowledge and the transformation of consciousness.






She was also greatly influenced by her childhood journeys. She often depicted out of the ordinary vehicles in mystifying lands. These works echo her family travels in her childhood.Also, the Surrealist movement tended to degrade women. Some of Varo's art elevated women, while still falling under Surrealism. But it was not necessarily her intention for her work to address problems in gender inequality. But, her art and actions challenged the traditional patriarchy, and it was mainly Wolfgang Paalen who encouraged her in this with his theories about the origins of civilization in matriarchal cultures and the analogies between pre-classic Europe and pre-Mayan Mexico.Wikipedia



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