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Remedios Varo Uranga

 (1908 - 1963)
Remedios Varo Uranga was active/lived in Mexico, France.  Remedios Varo is known for Surrealist painting, mysticism and symbolism.

Remedios Varo Uranga

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Remedios Varo Uranga
Remedios Varo Uranga (December 16, 1908 - October 8, 1963)

She 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.  Her birth helped her mother get over the death of another daughter, which is the reason behind the name.  In 1924 she studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.  During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement.  She met her second husband (after her death it was discovered that she had never divorced her first husband, painter Gerardo Lizarraga), 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 Domínguez.

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 German occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941.  She initially considered Mexico a temporary haven, but would remain in Mexico for the rest of her life.

At 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.  Still, 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 Jiménez of Valencia, Spain, claims Gruen had no rights to those works.  Gruen, now 91, claims he inherited no works from Varo, who died intestate but rather aquired the artwork on the open market after her death.  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.


Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Remedios Varo Uranga
From Spain where she was born December 16, 1908, Remedios Varo was an avant-garde painter whose subjects were mysticism, allegory, symbolism and surrealism.  She was much influenced by surrealist, Salvador Dalí, with whom she reportedly attended art classes in Spain at the San Fernando Academy.  However, she, unlike Dali, has remained relatively unknown, likely due to her death in the prime of her career.

Her basic art training was at the Academy. From childhood she was influenced by parents who stressed moral values and by a father who encouraged her to learn drafting.

To escape turmoil from the Civil War in Spain, she moved to Paris, where she had exposure to Surrealism.  But again, political unrest led her to re-settle, and with her husband, Benjamin Péret, she escaped Nazi aggression and in 1941, went to Mexico City, where she remained the rest of her life, and completed most of her work, about 110 paintings.  Generally she painted in oil on masonite with very fine, meticulous brush strokes.

In Mexico, she associated with revolutionary artists such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and became especially good friends with Leonora Carrington, expatriate English painter.  Walter Gruen, an Austrian who had escaped from a concentration camp, was also a close friend, and he supported her in a way that allowed her to focus on her creativity.

In 1963, Remedios Varo died in Mexico City from a heart attack, reportedly caused by tension and cigarette addiction.

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About  Remedios Varo Uranga

Born:  1908 - Anglés Cataluña, Spain
Died:   1963 - Mexico City, Mexico
Known for:  Surrealist painting, mysticism and symbolism