Remedios Varo
Overview
 
Remedios Varo Uranga was a Spanish-Mexican, para-surrealist painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and anarchist. She was born María de los Remedios Varo Uranga in Anglès, Girona
Anglès, Girona
Anglès is a Spanish municipality, in the comarca of Selva, in the province of Girona, Catalonia. It has an area of 16.30 km² and a population of 5,446 people .-Villages:*Anglès, 5.005*Cuc, 23*La Farga, 6*Les Mines del Sant Pare, 24...

, Spain in 1908. During the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband (the first was Gerardo Lizarraga, a painter), the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret
Benjamin Péret
Benjamin Péret was a French poet, Parisian Dadaist and a founder and central member of the French Surrealist movement with his avid use of Surrealist automatism.-Biography:...

 in Barcelona. There she was a member of the art group Logicophobiste.
Encyclopedia
Remedios Varo Uranga was a Spanish-Mexican, para-surrealist painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 and anarchist. She was born María de los Remedios Varo Uranga in Anglès, Girona
Anglès, Girona
Anglès is a Spanish municipality, in the comarca of Selva, in the province of Girona, Catalonia. It has an area of 16.30 km² and a population of 5,446 people .-Villages:*Anglès, 5.005*Cuc, 23*La Farga, 6*Les Mines del Sant Pare, 24...

, Spain in 1908. During the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband (the first was Gerardo Lizarraga, a painter), the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret
Benjamin Péret
Benjamin Péret was a French poet, Parisian Dadaist and a founder and central member of the French Surrealist movement with his avid use of Surrealist automatism.-Biography:...

 in Barcelona. There she was a member of the art group Logicophobiste. They were introduced through a mutual friendship with the Surrealist artist Oscar Dominguez.

In 1937, she moved to Paris with Péret, sealing herself from any return to Franco's Spain since she had republican ties. She was forced into exile from Paris during the Nazi
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She initially considered Mexico a temporary haven, but would remain in Latin America for the rest of her life.

In Mexico, she met native artists such as Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was a Mexican painter, born in Coyoacán, and perhaps best known for her self-portraits....

 and Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo . His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in...

, but her strongest ties were to other exiles and expatriates, notably the English painter Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington
Leonora Carrington OBE was a British-born Mexican artist, a surrealist painter and a novelist. She lived most of her life in Mexico City.-Early life:...

 and the French pilot and adventurer, Jean Nicolle. Her third, and last, marriage was to Walter Gruen, an Austrian who had endured concentration camps before escaping Europe. Gruen believed fiercely in Varo, and he gave her the support that allowed her to fully concentrate on her painting.

After 1949 Varo developed her mature style, which remains beautifully enigmatic and instantly recognizable. She often worked in oil on masonite panels she prepared herself. Although her colors have the blended resonance of the oil medium, her brushwork often involved many fine strokes of paint laid closely together - a technique more reminiscent of egg tempera. She died at the height of her career from a heart-attack in Mexico City in 1963.

Her work continues to achieve successful retrospectives at major sites in Mexico and the United States.

Major influences

Artistic influences

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
Irrealism (the arts)
Irrealism is a term that has been used by various writers in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art to denote specific modes of unreality and/or the problems in concretely defining reality. While in philosophy the term specifically refers to a position put forward by the American...

.

Varo was also influenced by styles as diverse as those of Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns. Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown, and through his works was both a commentator on and chronicler of his era...

, El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

, Picasso, and Braque. While André Breton
André Breton
André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism"....

 was a formative influence in her understanding of Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

, some of her paintings bear an uncanny resemblance to the Surrealist creations of the modern Greek-born Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico was a pre-Surrealist and then Surrealist Italian painter born in Volos, Greece, to a Genovese mother and a Sicilian father. He founded the scuola metafisica art movement...

.

In Mexico, she was influenced by pre-Columbian art
Pre-Columbian art
Pre-Columbian art is the visual arts of indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, North, Central, and South Americas until the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and the time period marked by Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas....

.

Varo's painting The Lovers served as inspiration for some of the images used by Madonna
Madonna (entertainer)
Madonna is an American singer-songwriter, actress and entrepreneur. Born in Bay City, Michigan, she moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing in the music groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she released her debut album in 1983...

 in the music video for her 1995 single "Bedtime Story".

Philosophical influences

Varo was influenced by a wide range of mystic and hermetic traditions, both Western and non-Western. She turned with equal interest to the ideas of C. G. Jung as to the theories of G. I. Gurdjieff
G. I. Gurdjieff
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff according to Gurdjieff's principles and instructions, or the "Fourth Way."At one point he described his teaching as "esoteric Christianity."...

, P. D. Ouspensky
P. D. Ouspensky
Peter D. Ouspensky , , a Russian esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff, whom he met in Moscow in 1915.He was associated with the ideas and practices originating with...

, Helena Blavatsky, Meister Eckhart
Meister Eckhart
Eckhart von Hochheim O.P. , commonly known as Meister Eckhart, was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic, born near Gotha, in the Landgraviate of Thuringia in the Holy Roman Empire. Meister is German for "Master", referring to the academic title Magister in theologia he obtained in Paris...

, and the Sufis, and was as fascinated with the legend of the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

 as with sacred geometry
Sacred geometry
Sacred geometry is the geometry used in the planning and construction of religious structures such as churches, temples, mosques, religious monuments, altars, tabernacles; as well as for sacred spaces such as temenoi, sacred groves, village greens and holy wells, and the creation of religious art...

, alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

 and the I-Ching. She saw in each of these an avenue to self-knowledge and the transformation of consciousness.

Selected list of works

  • 1925 El Tejido de los Sueños
  • 1942 Gruta Magica
  • 1947 Paludismo (Libélula)
  • 1947 El Hombre de la Guadaña (Muerte en el Mercado)

  • 1947 La Batalla
  • 1947 Wahgwah
  • 1947 Amibiasis o los Vegetales
  • 1955 Useless Science or the Alchemist
  • 1955 Ermitaño meditando
  • 1955 La Revelacion o el Relojero
  • 1955 Trasmundo
  • 1955 El Flautista
  • 1956 El Paraíso de los Gatos
  • 1956 To the Happiness of Women
  • 1956 Les Feuilles Mortes
  • 1957 Creation of the Birds
  • 1957 Women’s Tailor
  • 1957 Caminos Tortuosos
  • 1957 Reflejo Lunar
  • 1957 El Gato Helecho
  • 1958 Celestial Pabulum
  • 1959 Exploration of the Source of the Orinoco River
  • 1959 Catedral Vegetal
  • 1959 Encounter
  • 1960 Hacia la torre
  • 1960 Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst
  • 1960 Visit to the Plastic Surgeon’s
  • 1961 Vampiro
  • 1961 Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle
  • 1962 Vampiros Vegetarianos
  • 1962 Fenomeno
  • 1962 Spiral Transit
  • 1963 Naturaleza Muerta Resucitando

Interpretations to her body of work

The male surrealists almost never saw their female counterparts as capable artists; therefore, the female surrealists were forced to find ways of working within the restrictions of the surrealist misconceived definition of woman, while still trying to refute it. Varo does this through her images of women in confined spaces.

Later in her career, Varo’s characters developed into her emblematic androgynous figures with heart-shaped faces, large and lonely eyes, and the aquiline noses that mimic her own features. The sense of isolation was achieved again and again as Varo secluded her characters in one environment or another, conveying an extraordinarily powerful message to those who paid attention long enough to notice it. Her use of seemingly autobiographical characters—confined and held captive by forces unknown—could be seen as exposing the dynamic of superiority that is inherent in male surrealist’s misuse of women as muses. It could be interpreted that her paintings are responses to the marginalization of women; portrayals of the characteristic misogynist treatment of women artists by the male surrealists by likening her characters and chimerical figures to prisoners.

Varo’s legacy

When Remedios Varo died of a heart attack in Mexico City in 1963, the art world lamented their loss in her sudden death. Her mature paintings, fraught with arguably feminist meaning, are predominantly from the last few years of her life.

Since then, Remedios Varo has been quite forgotten by art history. It is possible that Varo’s name is often unrecognized is because she was a woman amongst a movement governed by men. It is probable that art history as missed out on something consequential because the culture that Varo lived in operated for so long on the belief that women were not the equivalent of men. The majority of western civilization did not think—and often still does not put into practice the belief that —women have been capable artists. Some scholars have attached the sentiment expressed by Linda Nochlin in her famous essay “Why Have There Been No Great Female Artists,” that “the question of women's equality —in art as in any other realm— devolves neither upon the relative benevolence or ill-will of individual men, nor the self-confidence or abjectness of individual women, but rather on the very nature of our institutional structures themselves, and the view of reality which they impose on the human beings who are part of them.”

The paintings of androgynous characters that share Varo’s facial features, mythical creatures, the misty swirls and eerie distortions of perspective are characteristic of Varo’s unique brand of surrealism. Varo has painted images of isolated, androgynous, auto-biographical figures to highlight the captivity of the true woman. While her paintings have been interpreted as more surrealist canvases that are the product of her passion for mysticism and alchemy, or as auto-biographical narratives, her work carries implications far more significant.

Her work is the attempt at calling attention to the fact that all women have been, falsely and forcefully, repressed and rendered one-dimensional. Though she can be considered to be a surrealist—a movement that is notorious for marginalizing women and praising the theoretical feminine while simultaneously neglecting the independence of actual women—the whole of art history has neglected the significance of the work of women artists.

Sources


*Linda Nochlin, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?"

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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