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Woman's Art Inc.

Remedios Varo: Voyages and Visions


Author(s): Janet Kaplan
Source: Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1980 - Winter, 1981), pp. 13-18
Published by: Woman's Art Inc.
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Remedios Varo:
Voyages and Visions

?JANET KAPLAN

In the spring of 1956, an unknown expatriate Spanish she remained elusive, revealing only glimpses of herself
painter, Remedios Varo (1913-1963), had her first solo through her work:
exhibition at the Galeria Diana in Mexico City. The show
I do not wish to talk aboutmyself becauseI holdvery
was an instant success, drawing large audiences and
enthusiastic reviews. The work was so immediately deeplythe belief that what is importantis the work,
not the person.5
popular, and the demand for it grew so rapidly, that from
her first exhibition there were waiting lists of potential From her work one can weave together the fragments of
buyers. Her retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderno in her various worlds-the world of Spain into which she was
1971 drew the largest audiences in Mexican history. As its born, the worlds of France and Mexico which she adopted,
organizer, Carmen Barreda, points out with pride, even the and the world of her imagination. She worked in a surreal
Mexican giants Rivera and Siquieros never drew such framework in which autobiographical details became the
crowds;1indeed, the exhibition had to be extended. Varo's source for her images and symbols. As most of her
popularity persists to this day, and conversation about her personages bear the delicate heart-shaped face with large
in Mexico invariably involves discussion of her enormous almond eyes, long sharp nose, and thick mane of hair that
value in the art market and her continuing appeal among marked the artist's own identity, one comes to see the
the people. Yet, despite this extraordinary success, Varo is personae she created as schematic self-portraits.
virtually unknown in the United States and Europe. Even The most overtly autobiographical work is a series of
within Mexico her work is not owned by any public
three paintings designed as a triptych. In the first, Toward
institution; it exists only in private collections, the Tower (1961), Varo shows herself as one of a group of
unavailable for public viewing.2 The only significant
identical, uniformed girls bicycling away from the beehive
study of the artist is in Spanish and was published in tower in which they are held captive, led by a "Mother
Mexico.3
Superior" figure, an ominous man, and hovering guardian
Remedios Varo believed in magic. She had an animistic birds. In this painting Varo reflects on aspects of her early
faith in the power of objects and in the interrelatedness of life. The youngest of three children and the only girl, she
plant, animal, human, and mechanical worlds. The story was raised in a conservative Catholic family bound by the
is told that one evening on a Mexican street she found a strictest conventions of Spanish tradition. She was
plant being sold that produced fruits that looked like eggs. educated first in convent schools and later in traditional
Fascinated, she brought one to her apartment, set it in the art academies, both of which she felt offered her firm
center of her plant-filled terrace in the moonlight, and technical training but stifled her personal freedom and
placed her tubes of paint around it. She felt that this artistic spontanaeity. From an early age Varo rebelled
special plant, her paints, and the moon were harmonious against group regimentation and is the one "rebel"seen in
together and that their conjunction would prove the painting. Among the group mesmerized by its leaders,
auspicious for the next day of painting.4 she places this girl in the first row, her gaze reaching out,
resisting what Varo termed "the hypnosis."6
Deeply superstitious and strongly attuned to nature,
Varo held a mystical belief in forces beyond the self, in In the central image of the autobiographical triptych,
powers beyond that of the individual that can influence Embroidering the Earth's Mantle (1961; Fig. 1), Varo
and direct events. She was an intelligent, sensitive, offers an alternate version of the Creation.7 The same
humorous woman of prodigious skill and imagination who young convent girls, here captive in a tower that looks like
depicted her dreams and visions on canvas. Yet as a person a medieval scriptorium, embroider the world according to

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14 Woman's Art Journal

the dictates of the "Great Master." This hooded figure developed a fascination with the invention of fantastic
reads from an instruction manual and stirs a boiling broth means of locomotion.
in an alchemical vessel from which the girls draw their
As a young adult, Varo was subject to the imperatives
embroidery thread. In the background a shrouded figure of both the Spanish Civil War and World War II, suffering
accompanies their work on a simple wooden flute. In this
comment on the idea of the Creation, Varo has included a years of flight, escape, and exile. Having moved from
subtle surprise. That same rebellious girl has Madrid to Barcelona to become part of the more avant-
"embroidered a trick in which one can see her together garde artistic life in Cataluna, she met and married the
French Surrealist poet, Benjamin Peret, who had come to
with her lover."8 She has embroidered, in the figure of her
lover, the person with whom she plans to escape her Spain in 1936 to fight on the side of the anarchists. They
confinement. fled Spain together to escape the Fascist takeover and
settled among the Surrealists in Paris. Within five years
In the third panel, The Escape (1962), the title attests to they again had to flee, first from occupied Paris to the free
her success. Here she is shown with her lover fleeing to the port of Marseilles, and then from Marseilles, under the
mountains. Again, fantasy builds on autobiography. most hazardous circumstances, joining numerous other
Remedios did escape the restrictions of her family and refugees on one of the last ships to be allowed to leave
schooling at the age of 19 by marrying Gerardo Lizarraga; German-occupied France. In 1942, after a harrowing ocean
an artist, while both were attending the Academia de San crossing, they again relocated, this time in Mexico, where
Fernando in Madrid.9(The marriage in fact, seems to have Varo remained for the rest of her life.'0
been a way to legitimize leaving her family, for Varo soon
The journey, for Varo, had a profound significance,
left Lizarraga to pursue her dream of the bohemian artist's
life.) Here the couple escape in a vehicle that looks like an spiritually as well as psychologically. Exiled from her
inverted umbrella floating on a foggy mist. Their capes homeland, she embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage,
billow out behind them, catching the wind and acting as committing herself to a search for self-knowledge,
sails. This vehicle is one of many created by Varo, each restlessly looking in any direction that might offer new
differing in design from the others, but all bearing the ways of knowing. Encouraged by her experience among
Varo touch of fantastic yet plausible detail. the Surrealists, she looked to dreams, alchemy, astrology,
mysticism, magic, the occult, and science-opening herself
Varo's fascination with journeys in strange vehicles to to any avenue by which she might explore the unknown in
unknown destinations reflects a life marked by travel. As a herself and in the universe. This exploration became a
child she traveled with her family throughout Spain and dominant theme in her work.
North Africa, accompanying her father in his work as a The fantastic vehicles that appear in many of Varo's
hydraulic engineer. Under his rigorous tutelage she copied paintings are often powered by wind and wheels, with
detailed drawings and diagrams to learn the techniques of
sophisticated systems of pulleys, pedals, rudders, and sails
mechanical drawing. She also read avidly, immersing that equip them to cross land, water, or air on their
herself in the adventurous voyages described by Jules
journeys of exploration. In The Find (1956), a triple-tiered
Verne and the mysteries of Edgar Allan Poe. From these boat with elaborate sails moves down- a darkened forest
experiences, and perhaps in prophetic foreknowledge, she river toward a pearl tlat shines in the distance. In Spiral
Transit (1962), a series of vehicles, each of differing design,
travel through a labyrinthian medieval city toward a
central tower. The course, spiralling inward, can be seen as
symbolic of her spiritual pilgrimage, a psychic journey
"inward through the unfolding levels of awareness ... "1
Varo seems to have felt a call to be awakened, to rise out
of the torpor of ordinary existence-out of the lethargy of
the crowd-to explore the possibilities of the universe in its
various and extraordinary manifestations. In this she felt
herself to be chosen. In The Call (1961; Fig. 2), she is
literally enlightened as light from a star to which she is
attached by her hair suffuses her body with an
otherwordly glow. She wears an alchemist's mortar
around her neck and carries a magical vessel. Joseph
Campbell described "the call" as the first stage of the
mythological journey, signifying "that destiny has
summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of
gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone
unknown."'2 Similarly for Varo's heroine, as she
emanates light she is propelled forward, her illumination
and movement in stark contrast to the gray, deadened
FIG. 1. Embroideringthe Earth's Mantle (1961). Courtesyof figures of a society asleep within the walls that surround
Walter Gruen. her. She has been summoned and chosen to carry the

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Woman's Art Journal 15

magic elixir as an initiate in the search for transcendence.


Alone, isolated in her awareness, she embarks on a quest
that demands courage and determination.
Such courage is a mark of the Varo heroine. In
Exploration of the Sources of the Orinoco River (1959; Fig.
3), the voyager is a determined woman on a solitary
journey to find "the source." Although she is dressed
humorously in an English raincoat and bowler hat and
carries wings overhead that seem to have been borrowed
from a theatrical production, the seriousness of her
purpose is not compromised. Even the playfulness of her
vehicle, a vest-coat transformed into a fragile little ship
with notes in the side pocket and compass instead of
watchfob, does not negate the intensity of her expression
or the sombre watchfulness of the dark birds that attend
her from the hollows of nearby trees. She is a woman,
independent and resolute, set out on a mission to find the
source. And what she finds, significantly, is that the
source is a simple wine glass set on a modest table in a
hollow tree. From the glass, liquid miraculously rises and
flows out, creating the very river on which she travels.
Again this image is double-edged-both fanciful and
autobiographical. The vest-coat boat and flooded woods
are wonderfully evocative dream-like images of
subconscious travel. They also refer to real travels that
Varo undertook in life, including a trip to Venezuela . . : 2.
FIG Waiter
Courtesy of Gruen
(where the Orinoco River flows) to join an unsuccessful FIG. 2. The Call (1961).Courtesyof WalterGruen.
expedition for gold. However, the search of Varo's
protagonist here must be understood primarily on a experiencing. Whether Varo actually sought psychiatric
psychological and spiritual level: here the gold is help is undocumented. She is known to have written semi-
philosopher's gold, the alchemical liquid of serious letters to psychiatrists whose names she drew from
transformation. As alchemy is both a scientific study and the phone book, describing imaginary crises and asking
a mystical search-a chemical attempt at transformation for help.
of materials and a personal search for transformation of
Although Varo may have been skeptical of the benefits
the psyche-so Varo here uses exploration of the river's of psychiatry, she was committed to active searching for
source as a metaphor for the search for the self,
growth and personal awareness. More than any pain
enlightenment, the truth. Venturing deep into a flooded resulting from the search, she feared the paralysis that
forest she has found a hollowed log shrine in which a
apathy would invite. She warns of this in Mimesis (1960).
sacred vessel overflows with magical liquid. She is an A woman, isolated, passive, and immobile, having lost all
explorer, looking into nature as into herself for the personal identity, is overwhelmed by the energy of the
possibilities that the world might offer. domestic sitting-room furniture that surrounds her. The
As a 20th century European deeply interested in the inanimate is animated and the furniture is
search for the self, Varo could not help but be influenced by anthropomorphized, an expression of Varo's belief in the
the theories of Freud and Jung. Throughout her work there living powers of all objects. Varo describes this woman's
is evidence of a symbolic use of images that can be situation as
interpreted in Jungian and Freudian terms. In Woman ... an unsettlingcase of mimesis;this womanis lost
Leaving the Psychoanalyst's Office (1961), Varo presents in her thoughts and has remainedmotionlessfor so
such symbology overtly. Here the protagonist exits from long that she is turninginto the armchair,her flesh
the office of "Dr. F.J.A." (Freud, Jung, Adler) and proceeds has becomejust like the cloth on the chair and her
to drop the disembodied head of her father into a small hands and feet arealreadyturnedwood,the furniture
circular well. This act, which Varo describes as "correct to gets boredand the armchairbites the table,the chair
do when leaving the psychoanalyst"13 is surely a reference in the backgroundinvestigates what the drawer
to her own maturation process in which she struggled to contains, and the cat which went out to hunt, is
frightenedand astonisheduponreturningas he sees
emerge from the domination of her imposing and the transformation.14
demanding father. As she prepares to discard her father's
head, she is able to drop one layer of her veil. However, just Although presented with humor, Mimesis emanates a
as the basket she carries holds yet more "psychological desperate tone of passivity. The very energy of the
waste," so other layers of veil remain, covering her mouth furniture in its lively interaction emphasizes the
and leaving her mute. An enclosing architecture submission of the woman, whose domesticated apathy
emphasizes the restriction and oppression she is surprises even the house cat. Just as the woman leaving

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16 Woman's Art Journal

in the process of controlling, is alienated from the very


nature that was its starting point. As in Woman Leaving
the Psychoanalyst's Office, Varo may be expressing a
response to her father's looming presence in her life. As an
engineer, perhaps her father, too, was out of touch with
nature and attempted to overwhelm it with abstraction.
If Varo questioned the limited vision of a myopic
approach to science, she held greater hope for the union of
science with the arts, a union from which she expected
clearer insight. The image most revealing of that hoped for
insight is her Creation of the Birds (1958; Fig. 4). Here the
scientist/artist in the symbolic persona of Wisdom-the
owl-sits at a desk drawing a bird. Using primary colors
distilled in a vessel fed from the atmosphere, she draws
with a pen that is connected through a violin to her heart.
Moonlight captured and magnified through a triangular
lens illuminates the drawing, causing the drawn birds to
come to life and take flight out the window. Here is the true
meeting of art, science, and nature, each feeding the other
in a cycle symbolically represented by the two vases in the
corner which feed their contents back and forth to each
other.15Varo's choice of details emphasizes her meaning.
She uses an alchemical vessel, like the one in
Embroidering the Earth's Mantle, as the receptacle of
transformation in which is created the palette of
primaries-the "trinity" that is the foundation of all color
FIG. 3. Explorationof the Sourcesof the OrinocoRiver(1959). in art. By creating birds that fly off the page, she places
Courtesy of Walter Gruen. herself within the mythological tradition of Daedalus,
the psychoanalyst was muted by her veil, so this woman is Hephaestus, and Pygmalion, all artists whose creations
were said to have come to life. This painting of an
silenced by her metamorphosis into the patterned fabric of
her chair.
owl/woman/artist/alchemist creating beauty and life
through the conjunction of color, light, sound, science, art,
Perhaps it was fear of such psychic paralysis that kept and magic may be the very image to which Varo aspired in
Varo going in her search, opening her to various modes of her life.
discovery. Besides alchemy and psychology, she also As a young artist, Remedios (the full name by which she
turned to the physical sciences, recognizing in the newest
was known in France) was at the very center of the
developments of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, Surrealist circle in Paris in the 1930s. This contact proved
and botany, which she studied with avid curiosity, an
to be of mixed benefit. Varo's interest in alternative
infinite world of possibilities. Understanding scientific
realities, in the correspondences between animal,
inquiry as analogous to spiritual pursuits, she felt that
science must not dominate, but rather must harmonize vegetable, and mineral worlds, found theoretical
with the forces of nature. justification among the Surrealists. She shared with them
a similar vitality in viewing the world. However, Varo's
In The Unsubmissive Plant (1961) she makes this point approach to her work differed greatly from the dictates of
most emphatically. We are shown a scientist studying a Surrealist theory; she did not pursue, for example, the
variety of botanical specimens for which theory has nearly Surrealist method of psychic automatism. Her works, all
overtaken nature. These plants, so carefully nurtured, carefully planned in advance, leave no room for the
grow branches of equations rather than foliage. The intervention of chance in dictating imagery; the elements
scientist too is consumed by formulae; hair in the form of are never juxtaposed in an accidental or arbitrary way.
mathematical equations grows out of a head filled with Hers is never Lautreamont's chance encounter of sewing
numbers. All the plants seem electrified by their neatly machine and umbrella on a dissecting table.16 The
conceived formulae, except one. The plant being studied alternative universe to which Varo invites us is filled with
with such perplexed concern has rebelled and followed congruent and understandable details. Although events
nature, rudely growing not numbers but foliage and a she images may not happen in our everyday world, in her
single proud flower. Even this plant had attempted to world they are consistent and therefore quickly become
sprout formulae, but its only mathematical branch acceptable. Her objects are recognizable; we can
withered, bearing the equation "Two plus two is almost understand their function even if that function is not what
four." The Unsubmissive Plant offers us Varo's mixed we have experienced. She has created a logical system in
feelings about scientific study in a succinctly ironic image. which each aspect is part of a consistent whole. This sets
Science, in this case botany, which seeks to understand her work apart from most painting of the true Surrealist
nature through abstraction, grows greedy for control, and school.

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Woman's Art Journal 17

It was not only a differing approach to chance and to "For me it was impossible to paint among such anxiety. In
the logical, however, that separated Varo from the this country [Mexico] I have found the tranquility that I
Surrealists. In a 1957 interview she described herself have always searched for."22 She also had financial
among them: security in her marriage to Walter Gruen. Finally, in her
life with Gruen, she could give up the commercial art work
Yes, I attendedthosemeetingswheretheytalkeda lot she had pursued to make a living,23 and devote herself fully
and one 'learned various things; sometimes I
to her own artistic vision. The first showing of Varo's
participatedwith works in their exhibitions; my
positionwas one of a timidandhumblelistener;I was mature work in Mexico City occurred in the mid-1950s. The
not old enoughnordidI have the aplombto faceupto public responded eagerly to her delicate fineness of touch
them, to a Paul Eluard, a Benjamin Peret, or an and exquisite concern for detail put to the service of images
AndreBreton.I was with an openmouthwithinthis that expressed a personal narrative of visions and dreams
group of brilliant and gifted people.I was together as well as a rich sense of humor. Perhaps the enthusiastic
with thembecauseI felt a certainaffinity.TodayI do response reflected an audience tiring of the hegemony of
not belong to any group;I paint what occursto me the famous muralists with their loose broad style and
and that is all.17 didactic social realist themes.
While Varo recalls her distance from the Surrealist Still Life Being Resuscitated (1963), is the last work
group as a function of youthful intimidation before Varo completed before her sudden death at the age of fifty
brilliance, it is, however, tempting to posit additional on October 8, 1963.25It is also her only known painting
explanations for her intimidation, and for her limited that included no human figure. Perhaps prophetically,
productivity in those years. rhe work she produced in Varo expressed the ultimate union in the cyclical rebirth of
France during the period, although technically assured, nature. Here, a table covered with a cloth, eight plates,
seems derivative, eclectic, and lacking in stylistic
fruits, and a candlestick has entered into movement
coherence or direction. Her personages look like skillfully stimulated by an invisible energy. As this tableau comes to
rendered representatives of the worlds of Ernst, Masson,
life, its contents are swept into a whirlwind so that the
Brauner, Dominguez, Dali, de Chirico, andMagritte, many fruits become planets orbiting around a sun represented
of whom she numbered among her friends as well as her
symbolically by the candle flame. In the course of orbiting,
sources. some fruits collide, explode, and send their seeds back to
As Gloria Orenstein has suggested, it was not just the earth. (This is perhaps the "big bang" that science
genius of the Surrealist theorists that was intimidating; it hypothesizes was the generator of life.) As the seeds reach
was the very theories they propounded.18As the femme- the floor, they magically germinte, sprout roots, and bear
enfant, femme-fatale, muse, and goddess described by small plants. Dragonflies that have been witness to the
Breton and Peret, woman, although put on a pedestal as a event fly out to spread the news. The title, which can be
figure of central importance, was being relegated to the translated literally from the Spanish as "dead nature
status of object-object of desire, of inspiration, of fear, of (naturaleza muerta) being resuscitated," ironically
devotion. Such status, although seemingly flattering, is declares resurrection as the theme.
ultimately limiting; it does not offer women claim to an
independent identity. It is woman as defined in man's
terms-defined as Other instead of Self.19Thus, the women
among the Surrealists had to struggle to find personal
definitions and imagery through which to express
themselves as autonomous creative beings.
The imagery that Varo later offers us in her mature
work20is a personal statement of the artist's definitions of
herself. Here she creates a wide variety of roles for women:
B^'^^sL <^1 "-A-.^"'*""
-
'Ii I _-5.
they can be explorers, scientists, mystics, and are
sometimes more androgynous than female. Varo, as an
artist, aligns herself within that community. She
expressed herself within her characters. Their searches,
discoveries, fears, and disappointments are hers. In
exploring their possibilities she explores her own. Yet she
keeps her characters, and surely herself, from an
overbearing sanctimoniousness through her penetrating ~? ' ~~
sense of humor. Courageous and self-sufficient, she is
neither muse nor catalyst to someone else's creativity. She
is creative in her own right, giving form to her own Y>t?A -L' iB;s

experience, defining "woman as she is and as she


dreams."21
Mexico proved significant to Varo in several ways as a
place to grow and mature as an artist. First, it was a safe FIG. 4. The Creationof the Birds (1958). Courtesyof Walter
haven, a place of peace isolated from the wars in Europe. Gruen.

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18 Woman's Art Journal

The religious tone of this cosmic resurrection is 7. For discussion of creation myths which involve the metaphor of
reinforced by the architecture, with its successive ogival weaving, see Marie-Louisevon Franz, Patterns of Creativity Mirrored
in Creation Myths (Zurich:Spring Publications, 1972), 88-9.
arches capping an intimate chapel-like space. Thus
8. Remedios Varo, from note to plate #7, 174.
enshrined, this mandala-like still-life-as-solar-system
9. Varo makes this referenceovert by painting here an accurate likeness of
offers the ultimate message of hope-that the possibilities her first husband, GerardoLizarraga. It is one of very few true portraits
of regeneration are limitless and that out of destruction in Varo's work.
can come rebirth, new life, and growth. For a woman who 10. Peret returned to Paris without Varo in 1948.
experienced the devastation of two wars and the 11. Jill Purce, The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul (New York: Avon
dislocation of two exiles, it is a powerful testament to hope 1974), 18.
and to the future. That it was to be her last painting only 12. Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton:
makes the irony more bitter and the statement more Bollingen Foundation, 1968), 58.
profound. ? 13. Remedios Varo, from note to plate #12, 174.
14. Ibid., note to plate #66, 177.
15. This image is also a visual reference to Andre Breton's famous prose
1. Author's interview with Carmen Barreda, then director of the Museo de work, Les Vases cor municants.
Arte Moderno, Mexico City, January 8, 1980. 16. The famous quotation, "Beautiful as the chance encounter, on a
2. WalterGruen,Varo's last husband, did lend a number of Varo paintings dissecting table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella," by Isidore
to the Museo de Art Modernoin the 1970s for exhibition on an extended Ducasse under the pseudonym, "Comte de Lautreamont", became a
loan basis. However,he withdrew the pieces in protest after the museum model for Surrealist metaphor and chance association of images. From
mounted an exhibition of work by another artist whose style Gruen Les Chants de Maldoror (Paris, 1869).
considered to be a bad imitation of Varo's. 17. Tibol, "Artes Plasticas: Primera investigacion de Remedios Varo," 6.
3. Although born in Spain, Varo is considered a Mexican artist because 18. Orenstein, "Women of Surrealism," 15.
the entire body of her mature work was done while she lived in Mexico 19. For discussion of Breton's conception of woman as "Other" see
from 1942-1963.The beautifully illustrated monograph, Remedios Varo Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, (New York: Knopf, 1968),
(Mexico City: ERA Ediciones, 1966, 2nd ed. 1969, 3rd ed. 1972), with 236-37.
texts by Octavio Paz, Roger Caillois and Juliana Gonzalez, it is now 20. The entire body of Varo's Mexican work numbers approximately 110
out-of-printand a collector's item. A new monograph is in preparation paintings, dating from c. 1953-1963.
in France, which will have a short text in Spanish and French by
Edouard Jaguer. Varo is included in some Mexican art history texts, 21. Patricia Meyer Spacks, The Female Imagination (New York: Avon
usually in a chapter dealing with the contributions of foreign artists 1976), 413.
in Mexico. Her work is discussed more fully in two Mexican tests on 22. From undated, uncited interview with Varo by Luis Islas Garcia, in
Surrealism: Jan Somolinos Palencia, El Surrealismo en la Pintura collection of Walter Gruen.
Mexicana (Mexico: Arte Ediciones, 1973); and Ida Rodriguez 23. Varo worked as a decorator of furniture; was a restorer of pre-
Prampolini, El Surrealismo y el Arte Fantastico de Mexico (Mexico: Columbian pottery; worked on costumes for Chagall's Mexico City
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Instituto de production of the ballet, Aleko; did drawings for Bayer aspirin
Investigaciones Esteticas, 1969). There is also a short film, Remedios advertisements; worked creating dioramas to illustrate war
Varo:An Interpretation, made by Jomi Garcia Ascot, producedby Eva developments for English antifascist propaganda; and did drawings of
Sulzer, with music by J. GutierrezHeras and photography by M. Jose insects for the Ministry of Public Health in Caracas, Venezuela.
Torre, which was presented at the festival of short subjects in 24. Varo's Souvenir of the Walkyrie,a painting of 1938,was first exhibited
Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1966. This color film is available in 35 mm and in Mexico City in 1940, as part of the International Surrealist
16 mm, distributed in the U.S. by Serious Business Co. of Oakland, Exhibition at the Galeria de Arte Mexicano, organized by Wolfgang
California. The only mention of Varo in English language publications Paalen and Cesar Moro. This took place before Varo emigrated to
is a brief reference with illustrations by Karen Petersen and J.J. Wilson Mexico, and she was included here as part of the French Surrealist
in Women Artists: Recognition and Reappraisal (New York: Harper group. The workis characteristic of her derivative style from the French
and Row, 1976) and by Gloria Orenstein in the article "Women of years.
Surrealism," Feminist Art Journal (Spring 1973), 1, 15-21, which was 25. 'According to all written accounts, Varo's death was caused by a totally
expanded as "Art History and the Case for the Women of Surrealism,"
JGE: The Journal of General Education (Spring 1975),31-54,published unexpected and immediately fatal heart attack. Some friends say she
had heart trouble,aggravated by her chain smoking; others say she had
by the Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park. This no history of any cardiac problem. Still others report rumors that the
article is part of a book-in-progressby the author which will be the first
death was a suicide. The official account of heart attack still stands and
extensive English-language monograph on Remedios Varo.
no evidence has been uncovered to support any other explanation for
4. Author's interview with Juliana Gonzalez, philosopher at the National her death.
University of Mexico, Mexico City, January 16, 1980.
5. Interview with the artist, Raquel Tibol, "Artes Plasticas: Primera
investigacion de Remedios Varo," Novedades (July 28, 1957), "Mexico
en la Cultura," 6. JANET KAPLAN, an art historian and artist, is completing her
6. This is taken from a series of descriptions Varo offered for her work,
Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia Universtiy on the life and work of
as remembered by Walter Gruen. Gruen, attributing them to letters Remedios Varo. She is Assistant Professor of Art History at Moore
Varo wrote to her brother, Dr. Rodrigo Varo, in Spain, included them as College of Art, Philadelphia, and has taught at Franconia College,
notes in the "Index of Illustrations" of Remedios Varo. This reference where she organized the New England Conference of Women
is from the note to plate #6, 173-74. Artists, and at the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth.

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