|Born||Dec. 16, 1908
|Died||Oct. 8, 1963 (at age 54)|
|Works||View Complete Works|
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. Her unique art was a result of her upbringing and socialization in a world of art and philosophy, her life struggles as well as her amazing imagination.
Her father, Rodrigo Varo was an intellectual man who was very instrumental in mentoring Remedios from her early age to develop her artistic career. At a very tender age, Rodrigo helped her daughter develop the abilities of technical drawing. He also encouraged Remedios to become an independent thinker. He introduced Remedios to science and fiction by buying her adventure and science books. Her mother, though indirectly, contributed to the artistic development of Remedios. Her mother, Ignacia Uranga, was a devout Catholic and was determined to taking her daughter to a convent school. It was precisely because of this that Remedios developed a critical opinion of religion and opposed religious ideology. Her father encouraged Remedios’ early philosophical thinking. Remedios ended up embracing a Universalist and liberal ideals.
As a child, the artist moved from one place to another, from Angles to Cadiz to Larache, Morocco, and to Madrid. These moves exposed Remedios to various cultures and widened her world view and this was to later reflect in her art. In 1923, when she was a student at the School of arts in Madrid, Remedios made her first work of art. She painted her portrait as well as that of her family. In 1924, she joined the best school of arts in Madrid, San Fernando Fine Arts Academy, where she graduated with a drawing teacher diploma in 1930. It was in this academy that she was introduced to surrealism, a cultural movement and philosophy that encouraged capturing of the real functionality of the human thought, without controls like reason and morality. The surrealist artwork was used to express the philosophical movement.
With the advent of the Spanish Civil War, she was forced out of Spain and fled to Paris, then to Barcelona much later. It was in Paris that she was further influenced by the surrealist movement.
Her Artistic Works Mature
The art of Remedios was also influenced by her first and second husband. Her first husband, Gerardo Lizarraga, was a renowned painter while her second husband, Benjamin Peret, was a surrealist poet. In Barcelona, where she met her second husband, she was a member of Logicophobiste art group through which she was able to harness her imagination and put it in art. Later, she moved back to Paris but was forced to flee after being arrested during the Nazi occupation of France. She moved to Mexico in 1941 and it was there that Remedios decided to take her untraveled and beautiful journeys in her imagination.
In Mexico, she was inspired by native artists such as Diego River and by exiles and expatriates by the likes of Jean Nicollo and Walter Gruen. Gruen, an Austrian who had suffered in the Concentration camps in Europe, was a great inspiration to Remedios. He encouraged her to work on her art, and by 1949 Remedios’ style of art had already matured. Out of her 140 art collection, 110 were born in Mexico.
Remedios 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. Her philosophical thought of the state could have been a result of her experience in Europe. This philosophy was also reflected in her isolationist art style. Feminism was another school of thought that influenced the art style of Remedios. At the time when she was a surrealist painter, the male surrealist did not see their female counterparts as talented. Tis 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.
Her art style was unique, described by others as disturbing. She captured the feature of surprise in her art as well as unexpected juxtapositions. Her surrealist unique brand captured the captivity of a true woman of the 20th Century. She used solitary and mystical characters involved in scientific activities. This was inspired to a large extent by the scientific indulgence of her father at an early age. She used imagination and the concept of magic in her art. She used androgynous characters that mimic her physical features. Facial features such as large eyes, an aquiline nose and heart-shaped faces are common in her art and resemble her own facial features.
The art also used autobiographical characters that seemed to be held by unknown forces. This was a response to female marginalization in the art world because it exposed the superiority complex of the male surrealist artists. What is also common in her art is use of mythical creatures, alchemy, misty swirls and utopian vehicles that can go through land, air and water with sails, gears and transmissions responding to superior energy. The unusual attitude of her art reflects passive, contemplative, instability and symbolism. Those who look close enough at her work of art can capture and appreciate this amazing imagination.
The Art Lives On
In 1963, the world of art lost an important talent with the death of Remedios. She died from a heart attack, which many people attribute to excessive tension. Despite the death of this great artist, her art is still enjoyed in Mexico and the United States. Although she considers Latin America as just a temporary home, it is here that her career flourished and where she took her last breath. After her death, Gruen, who was her partner in Mexico, worked to ensure that her work lived on. He bought her work of art at an auction after her death and gave to Museum of modern art in Mexico City in 1999. The piece of art that remained in Remedios’ studio, Still Life Reviving was given to her mother.
It would therefore be fair to say that Remedios life was an adventure, both in travel and imagination, which was shared by the whole world through art. Those who seek a closer look are able to understand its twists and symbolisms. Even though she is not here with us today, Remedios Varo (1908-1963) still lives on through her art.