Surrealism: Remedios Varo (1909-1963)

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1.Born in Spain, Remedios Varo fled the Nazi occupation in 1941 and went to live in:


(Click to enlarge "Sympathy"-1955)

She earned her living by painting furniture, designing costumes and toys, and worked as an illustrator for Bayer pharmaceuticals. She was able to devote her time to her art when he married a wealthy man, walter Gruen.

Souls of the mountains
(click to enlarge example of "fumage"
"Souls of the Mountain-1938)

2.  At this time she studied different techniques: from Wolfang Paalen she learned "fumage" which is:

a- passing the image over a flame to form smoky swirls
b- a type of false image, like "trompe l'oeil"
c- applying objects directly on the canvas

(clik to enlarge the example of "decalcomania"
"Cat Man 1943-sepia aquatint on paper)

3. She learned "decalcomania" from Oscar Dominguez, which is a method of:

a- gluing decals on the painting
b- tracing the images before painting them
c- pressing a sheet of paper on a painted surface and lifting the image

Eye of Silence
(Click to enlarge "Eye of Silence"1944 )                                                                      

Varo was able to break from the first generation Surrealists and develop her own style.  Some of these artists were Victor Brauner, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Jean, Yves Tangy and Paul Delvaux. 

4. Which of the following is also a Surrealist who painted the above painting?

a- Max Ernst
b- Pablo Picasso
c- Marcel Duchamp

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(click to enlarge "Woman leaving the Psychoannalyst"-1960)

Varo broke away from her past and patriarchal control, which she exemplifies in her witty "Woman leaving the Psychoannalyst".

5.On the above picture, the sign on the door says Dr. F.J.A.   What do these initials stand for?

a- Varo's married name
b- Freud, Jung and Adler
c- Women young and old

Varo became friends with a English exiled painter Leonora Carrington who was companion to  Max Ernst until his internment during the war.  She went to Mexico where she became very close to Varo. This friendship is described in Carrington's novel "The Hearing Trumpet"-1977.

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(click to enlarge picture of "Saturn eating his young")

6.Varo's formal studies of painting in Spain show the influences of Bosch, El Greco and by which other Spanish painter who painted the painting above?

a- Ribera
b- Picasso
c- Goya

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(click to enlarge"Creation of the Birds"-1957,oil on masonite)

Important to Varo, Carrington, and other Surrealist were occult traditions and alternate paths to knowledge.  Refernces to Parcelsus, the Swiss alchemist appear in their works. 

7.In the "Creation of the Birds", how does 'wisdom' give life to the 'birds'?

a- with his breath
b- with a potion
c- with star light

Varo in her paintings illustrates André Breton's "insistence on the interationc of waking life and dreams"*

8. What does the artist-creator wear around her neck in "Creation of the Birds" to illustrate the harmony of nature?

a- a globe
b- a guitar
c- an egg

(click on the image to enlarge)

9. What happens to this apple in the above painting?

a- they start swirling like planets
b- they get eaten
c- they become rotten

1956, oil on masonite

Varo mastered the mystical writing of G.I Gurdjieff, who theorized about the possibility of new perceptions of time and space through higher states of consciousness.  His Russian pupil, the mathematicican P.D. Ouspensky, illuminate many aspects of Varo's iconography.

10. Based on Ouspensky's concept or art, Varo's painting (above) is called:

a- Four dimensional space
b- The live universe
c- Harmony

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Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo

Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo

Links on Varo:

Information based on an article by Sue Taylor in "Art in America" April 2001, p.126

JCLS 4/2001

Music Mediterranean suite