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5 Fast Facts: Remedios Varo

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
Rendered with precise brushwork, a tall, thin figure strides forward wearing flowing, orange garments emanating a misty golden aura. Her fiery red hair stretches heavenward, encircling a celestial orb. Figures appear encased in the walls of the concave structure surrounding her.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Surrealist painter Remedios Varo (1908–1963), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. Stranger in a Strange Land

Varo spent the majority of her adulthood as a political refugee. She left her native Spain for Paris during the Spanish Civil War and could not return due to her political ties. She then fled Paris after Germany’s 1940 occupation. She escaped to Mexico, where she lived for the rest of her life.

2. Hanging with the In-Crowd

Varo’s relationship with French Surrealist poet Benjamin Péret introduced her to other Parisian Surrealists. While outwardly accepting, the male-dominated movement placed limitations on women artists by portraying them as innocent and child-like. This view often created obstacles for female Surrealists trying to gain credibility and develop their own creative identities.

3. Paying the Bills

After moving to Mexico, Varo supported herself through various odd jobs, including sewing, restoring ceramics, creating advertisements for pharmaceuticals, and creating technical drawings for the Ministry of Public Health. Although commercial, this work helped her develop a style that was uniquely her own.

Rendered with precise brushwork, a tall, thin figure strides forward wearing flowing, orange garments emanating a misty golden aura. Her fiery red hair stretches heavenward, encircling a celestial orb. Figures appear encased in the walls of the concave structure surrounding her.
Remedios Varo, La llamada (The Call), 1961; Oil on Masonite, 42 x 31 x 1 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift from Private Collection; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

4. Fashionista

Although she is renowned as a painter, Varo also designed costumes for theatrical productions. She even made her own clothing, believing that tailors had no knowledge of a woman’s anatomy and figure. Her sewing machine held a place of honor at the 1983 retrospective of her work in Mexico City.

5. Best Friends Forever

Varo was close friends with fellow Surrealist Leonora Carrington. The two often discussed philosophy and collaborated on stories, games, and plays. One of their favorite pastimes was creating recipes that promised to chase away problems like, “inopportune dreams, insomnia, and deserts of quicksand under the bed.”

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