Varo, Remedios (1908-1963) - 1948 Allegory of Winter (Private Collection)
Gouache on paper; 44 x 44 cm.
Remedios Varo Uranga (December 16, 1908 – October 8, 1963) was a Spanish-Mexican, para-surrealist painter and anarchist. She was born María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga in Anglès, a small town in the province of Girona, Spain in 1908. In 1924 she studied at the Academia de San Fernando de Madrid. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband (the first was the painter Gerardo Lizarraga, whom, as was discovered after her death, she never divorced), the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret 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.
Due to her Republican ties, her 1937 move to Paris with Péret ensured that she would never be able to return to Franco's Spain. She was forced into exile from Paris during the Nazi 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 and Diego Rivera, but her strongest ties were to other exiles and expatriates, notably the English painter Leonora Carrington and the French pilot and adventurer, Jean Nicolle. Her third, and last, important relationship 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. Currently, the ownership of 39 of her paintings, first loaned and then given by Gruen to Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art in 1999 is in dispute. Varo's niece Beatriz Varo Jimenez of Valencia, Spain, claims Gruen had no rights to those works. Gruen, now 91, claims he inherited no works from Varo, who died intestate. Varo never divorced the husband she married in Spain in 1930: a court denied Gruen's request in 1992 to be given inheritance rights as the artist's common-law husband. He and his wife, Alexandra, whom he married in 1965, acquired all the paintings given to the museum on the open market after Varo's death and are therefore his to give. He said he gave the only painting in Varo's studio at the time of her death, "Still Life Reviving," to the artist's mother. The work was auctioned at Sotheby's New York in 1994 for $574,000.