Remedios Varo was born in Anglés, Spain
in 1913. As a child
schools at the behest of her devout Catholic mother
later studied painting
at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid
and the Ecole de
Beaux-Arts in Barcelona
In 1930 she married painter
Gerardo Lizzaraga, then left him for anarchist poet
Benjamin Péret in 1936. In 1937 she and Péret were wed and joined the Parisian
. In Paris, Varo met her lifelong close friend, artist
By 1942, the Germans had occupied Paris
and Varo fled the country with her husband.
The two of them settled in Mexico
, along with Carrington. There Varo also befriended
Natalia Trotsky, and became an active Trotskyite
. Other notable artists
were living in Mexico during this time, including surrealist Frida Kahlo
In 1947, Varo and Péret separated. He returned to Paris, she remained in Mexico. She
remarried in 1953 to businessman
Walter Gruen, who encouraged her art
. With his
support she produced her first solo exhibit
in 1955, which was a great success.
Later in her life, Varo became prone to bouts of depression
. She died in 1963 in
Varo painted in the surrealist style
, notably combining a scientific
the natural world
with a magical medieval
influence. These themes
can be seen in many of her works, including:
- Revelation, or The Clockmaker (1955): Shows a clockmaker in his
workshop surrounded by grandfather clocks that all read the same
time. Each clock contains a little figure in costume from various historical
periods. The clockmaker's attention is on a mystical swirling blue disk that has just
appeared in his window, which represents Einstein's discovery of the
relativity of time -- a shattering new idea about how time works, that it is not a
fixed moment to be trapped inside the body of a grandfather clock.
- The Useless Science, or The Alchemist (1955): Depicts a lone
alchemist sitting on a black and white checked floor, turning the handle of a Rube
Goldberg-esque machine full of gears and funnels that is producing only a strange
green liquid (and not gold, as was most alchemists' goal).
- Creation of the Birds (1958): An owl-like figure sits at a desk, drawing
birds with a pen that has been connected to a violin hanging around her neck. The
birds are illuminated by moonlight magnified through a lens, then come to life and fly
away through the window of the owl's workshop.
- Unsubmissive Plant (1961): A botanist sits at a work table that holds
several plants whose twisting branches spell out mathematical formulae. The botanist's
tangled hair forms similar formulae as his work fills his head. Only one plant does
not produce numbers: it has produced a healthy pink flower and a wilting branch that
spells "two plus two is almost four" in Spanish.
- Phenomenon of Weightlessness (1963): Shows a scientist whose globe
has come off its shelf, tilting to an angle. In doing this it has created a new,
tilted spatial dimenson, and the scientist's study is shown with two floors, walls,
windows: one tilted, the other properly aligned.
- Still Life Reviving (1963): Varo's last painting. Depicts the traditional
still-life objects lifting off a table and revolving in a solar system arrangement
around a candle flame. It is also interesting in that it is one of only a few of her paintings that
does not contain a human figure. The title is a sort of pun in Spanish, as the phrase
for "still life" translates literally to "dead nature," giving the title the alternate
interpretation, "dead nature returning to life."
Varo is also studied by many feminist art historians
. She is a notable artist within
this sphere, with several works that reflect femininity and women's self-perception.
One such painting is A Visit to the Plastic Surgeon's
(1960) in which a woman
wearing a veil
over her large nose is shown entering a doctor's office. In the window
of the office is a sculpture
of a nude female figure with a pretty little nose and six
See some of the paintings mentioned in this writeup here: http://www.nd.edu/~sweber/art/varo/