Remedios Varo was born in 1908 in Girona, Spain and passed away at the age 55 in Mexico City in 1963. Raised by a Catholic mother and an atheist engineer father, these two forces—the spiritual and scientific—greatly influenced Varo’s artistic career. Considered a Spanish-Mexican artist who played an integral role in the Mexico City-based Surrealist movement, Varo is known for her enigmatic paintings of androgynous beings engaged in alchemy or the occult.
After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, Varo moved to Barcelona in the mid-1930s and joined the Surrealist avant-garde art group, Logicophobista. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, she fled for Paris with Surrealist poet Benjamin Péret. Although Varo was involved with Surrealism in Paris, her works were only exhibited occasionally with the group.
In the outbreak of the Second World War, Varo fled Nazi-occupied France for Mexico, where she connected with other exiled artists such as Wolfgang Paalen, Gordon Onslow Ford, and Leonora Carrington, who became Varo’s closest friend. By 1953 Varo was in a relationship with Austrian political refugee Walter Gruen, who passionately supported her artwork. During this time, she devoted the rest of her life to painting. During these years Varo’s artistic style matured into a unique brand of symbolism and iconography, often featuring women with heart-shaped faces like her own. In 1956, she had her first major solo exhibition in Mexico City, which was well-received. She continued to exhibit thereafter, with much of her work created in the last 10 years of her life.
Varo created 384 works of art, over half of them drawings, which are now globally dispersed. Thirty-eight of Varo’s most prominent paintings, Walter Gruen donated to the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City.
Varo’s work has been acquired by museums worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain, among others. She has had solo shows at The Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City, Mexico (2018, 2016, 2001, 1994, 1983, 1971), National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2000), and Mexican Fine Arts Museum, Chicago, IL (2000). More recently, Varo’s work has been included in many group museum exhibitions including “The Moon – From Inner Worlds to Outer Space”, Louisiana Museum of Art, Denmark (2018); “Campo Cerrado: Spanish Art 1939 – 1953”, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (2016); “Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration”, Museum of Modern Art, New York; “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States”, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California (2012); "Surreal Friends", Pallant House Gallery and Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, United Kingdom (2010); “Exposicion Permanente”, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2002, 2001); and “Surrealism: Desire Unbound”, Tate Modern Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2001). In 2020, her work will be included in the group show “Fantastic Women”, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany (2020).
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