Rodrigo Varo y Zajalvo worked in construction. He had no background in art, but he placed a high value on drawing skills.
Mr. Varo brought home his blueprints for his little daughter Remedios; she dutifully copied the straight lines and tricky angles.
Over her lifetime, Remedios Varo fled Nazis, championed anarchy, dated a poet, designed costumes for Marc Chagall’s ballet Aleko, and met artists such as Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, and Diego Rivera. Crazy woman.
Somehow, the existence of her work has escaped me until very recently. And in the past few months, I’ve had to scramble the leaderboards of my favorite Surrealists. Dali has been dethroned. Here are the current standings, in case you were wondering:
1. Zdzisław Beksiński
2. Salvador Dali
3. Remedios Varo
4. René Magritte
Remedios Varo, La Llamada, 1961 Remedios Varo, Simpatia, 1955 Remedios Varo, Simpatia, 1955 Remedios Varo, Rompiendo el Circulo Vicioso, 1962 Remedios Varo, Personaje, 1961 Remedios Varo, Ciencia Inútil o el Alquimista, 1962
Varo’s oeuvre has a haunting, harlequin feel that is missing from the bleak mindscapes of other Surrealist work. And for the sake of storytelling, I’m fonder of Varo’s and Beksinski’s mystical characters than Dali’s naked people (see the Temptation of St. Anthony).
When she died in 1963, fellow Surrealist and close friend André Breton said:
The Sorceress left too soon.