Upon the sudden death of Remedios Varo in 1963, she peer André Breton detailed that death made the painter “the sorceress that left too soon.” It was a fitting means of bidding goodbye to Varo, whose confidence in magic, mysticism, and also the strength of nature influenced her fantastical, allegorical work. She passed away at the height of her success—her posthumous retreat at the Museum of modern-day Art in Mexico City in in 1971 exceeded attendance records at the college for mirrors by Diego Rivera and also David Alfaro Siqueiros.

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In death and life, Varo was identified by she Surrealist associations. After fleeing her indigenous Spain, the French poet Benjamin Péret introduced her come the Parisian avant-garde crowd, who members she exhibited and also studied alongside. Varo worked within a psychoanalytic framework, however her approach left small to accident or automatism. She was a meticulous architect of dreamscapes, planning fine in breakthrough the symbology the operated as roadmaps to she autobiography, despite she rubbish affiliation v the Surrealists, informing an interviewer in 1957, “I was with an open mouth in ~ this team of brilliant and also gifted people. Ns was along with them because I felt a details affinity. Today I do not belonging to any kind of group.”

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Below is a guide to Varo’s life and also the countless influences the shaped she creations.

Early exposure come religion, Romanticism, and science do an indelible influence on she imagination.

She to be born María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga in northeast Spain in 1908. Her father was a hydraulic engineer, whose profession frequently uprooted the family. Having actually recognized her imaginative talent early, he had actually Varo blee his technical engineering sketches. One intellectual and a believer in universalism, the philosophical principle that details ideas recur in all cultures, he presented her come the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Alexandre Dumas, and also Hieronymus Bosch. She was noted texts on mysticism, science, and also philosophy. Her mother, in contrast, was a devout Catholic (Varo was named after the Virgin the Los Remedios). At 15, her parents enrolled her at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Madrid, the alma mater the Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso.

Varo rebelled against it all—the formal instruction of the Escuela de Bellas Artes, her father’s expectations, and also her mother’s spiritual ideology. In ~ 19, she eloped with fellow student Gerardo Lizárraga, and the 2 left for Paris. She left him soon after to seek a bohemian lifestyle, taking up with Péret. Together an adult, Varo stood up to speaking around her childhood. “I execute not great to talk about myself because I hold very deeply the id that what is necessary is the work, not the person,” she said.


A triptych produced in the critical years of her life functions as a metaphor for her beforehand years. In the first part, toward the Tower (1961), Varo depicts it s her as one of a team of uniformed girls bicycling away from a mother Superior figure, an allusion to the convent she attend for major schooling. Mommy Superior is join by a looming man and also flock that birds. The girl at center resists the hypnotizing result of she teachers, who have actually entranced she schoolmates. The main image that the triptych, Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle (1961), uses an alternate view of creation at odds through her conservative Catholic upbringing, which produced anxiety because that Varo throughout her life. In the work, convent girl are presented captive in a tower together they embroider a story dictated by a hooded figure. The number stirs a boiling liquid, with which the subject emerges. The final panel, The escape (1962), represents her successful emancipation. United through her lover, castle flee come the mountains.

Varo invested the majority of she life in transit, very first as a child, then in adulthood as a political refugee.

Varo moved to Paris in 1937, and also because of she political ties, she was barred from returning to her indigenous Spain following the Spanish civil War. She time in Paris was fruitful because that the relationships she made: v Péret, she met leading artists such Breton, Max Ernst, Salvator Dali, and also Leonora Carrington. After arriving in Paris she displayed in the international Surrealist exhibitions arranged by Breton and also poet Paul Éluard. When people War II neared Paris in 1940, Varo was jailed under skepticism of espionage in addition to fellow Spanish expatriates. After her release she fled the nation with Péret aboard among the critical ships permitted to depart the country, en path to Mexico.

Displacement and travel is typically alludedto in she painting, regularly in the kind of surreal vehicles that voyage.In expedition of the sources of the Orinoco flow (1959), an intense figure dressed in a bowler hat and also English trench coat is ferried in a small, vest-like boat. She will a wooden hut, whereby water operation from a goblet. The occupational alludes come Varo’s yellow mining expedition to Venezuela, where the Orinoco flow flows. Here, yellow is reminiscent of philosopher’s gold, one alchemical problem which symbolized perfection the the mind and soul, as well as a source of transformation.

Varo blended Renaissance and also Surrealist painting approaches in her work.

In one of her best-known paintings, a juggler (or magician) transfixes a group of near-identical numbers clad in a single gray cloak. The juggler is illuminated through white stardust, and he stands on the communication of a dare filled with a lion and also goat and also fantastical instruments. Varo produced the painting by first transferring a preparatory drawing onto a panel that had actually been primed with gesso, climate scratching the dashboard to create an inexplicable texture. Varo also used decalcomania, a decorative an approach popularized by the Surrealists, in i beg your pardon designs on paper or aluminum foil space pressed onto one more surface, transferring the image. This produced the halo-like effect around the juggler. The central character has additionally been painted over a five-sided piece of mother of pearl, which Varo linked with enlightenment. Among her plenty of influences was the writings of the Russian mystics and philosophers Georgii Giurdzhiev and also Piotr Ouspenskii, that espoused the idea that world live their lives in a state that hypnotic “waking sleep,” but have the potential come awaken a state of hyper-consciousness.

Psychoanalysis played a big role in Varo’s work.

Like numerous of the Surrealists, Varo was drawn to the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and also Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, both of whom focused on the complexity of the unconscious and also untapped desires.It’s unknown even if it is Varo ever before saw a psychoanalyst (a couple of unsent letters seeking psychiatric aid were discovered in her belongings), yet she inhabited her paintings with overt recommendations to the ar of study. In the 1956 occupational Woman leave the Psychoanalyst’s Office, the main figure exits from the office the Dr. F. J. A. (Freud, Jung, and the Austrian psychotherapist Alfred Adler) and proceeds come drop she father’s disembodied head into a small well, an plot which she described as “correct to do once leaving the psychoanalysis office.” Looked at one way, this could be Varo liberating it s her from the patriarchy and also approaching autonomy.

She found success and also an enduring imaginative practice in Mexico City.

Her early exposure come Surrealist and also Cubist artists, in specific the occupational of Georges Braque, were formative on her later on practice, however Varo produced little work while in Paris. This to be partly because of the sexism the Varo’s male peers, who she said held contemptuous mindsets toward women artists. In Mexico, however, she created a lush body of job-related that frequently elevated a feminine figure. In The call (1961), her body is illuminated from within by a mythological glow. While working odd jobs, including a stint as Marc Chagall’s assistant, Varo reunited with fellow European expatriates, such together Leonora Carrington and also photographer Kati Horna, that together ended up being known together “the three witches.”

Upon Varo’s arrival, mexico muralism still held sway, but by the time of Varo’s an initial exhibition in 1955, Surrealism had end up being a industry force. The display was a hit, with buyers required to include their names to a waitlist. She showed again at the Salón de la Arte de Mujer in 1958, and also died of a heart assault five years later, in 1963.

After a period of family member obscurity outside Mexico, Varo’s star rises ~ above the market.

Frida Kahlo, Varo, and also Carrington space often thought about the preeminent females artists linked with the mexican Surrealist movement. Varo remained fairly unknown external Mexico after her death, but her profile has actually steadily climbed in recent years alongside rising demand for woman Surrealists. Varo, having actually passed far at she prime, behind few works, numerous of i beg your pardon reside in private collections. In 2012, the Museum of contemporary Art in brand-new York got The Juggler (The Magician), 1956, i m sorry is now prominently presented in the Surrealist gallery beside works through Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí.

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In 2019, Varo was featured in “Surrealism in Mexico,” a retreat at the Di Donna Galleries in brand-new York, and also in a pop-up present presented by collection Wendi Norris in mountain Francisco, which paired Varo through works by Carrington. “Some the the best paintings the Surrealism to be made in Mexico during the 1940s and also ’50s, by women,” wrote the new York Times in its testimonial of the show. In June 2020, Varo’s 1959 canvas Microcosmos (Determinismo) sold at Sotheby’s because that $1.8 million, marking the fifth-highest price paid because that the Varo’s work-related at auction. Armonía (Autorretrato Sugerente), 1956, accomplished an even higher number, offering for a record-breaking $6.1 million, much surpassing the high estimate of $3 million.