December 16, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

One hundred years ago today (12/16/08), Maria de los Remedios Varo Uranga, (aka Remedios Varo) was born the Catalan region of north-east Spain. She attended the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, where she was a classmate of Dali, Buñuel, and Lorca. She joined the Surrealist movement in France, but WWII forced her into exile in Mexico where she fully developed her artistic style.

Mostly unknown in the US (eclipsed to some degree by the more flamboyance of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera) she was a huge success in Mexico. Her paintings combine the surrealist love of the mystical and unconscious with a delicate sense of the mechanical.

A new book has been issued to celebrate her centenary, but in the past decade her work has been a much in the courts as in the museums.

The dispute centers on who owns 39 paintings first lent and then given to Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art in 1999 by Walter Gruen, an Austrian and also a World War II refugee and concentration camp survivor who was Varo's supporter, lover, and common-law husband the last 11 years of her life. Varo's niece Beatriz Varo Jimenez of Valencia, Spain, has contended in a Mexico City family court that she is Varo's rightful heir and that Gruen had no right to give the works to the museum. The niece initially won control, but the Attorney General's office nullified the claim in 2006. proclaiming her work a national treasure so the works can not leave Mexico, though the case remains unresolved with respect to actual ownership. Gruen died on October 31 of this year.

A exhibition that included these works opened in February at El Museo de Arte Moderno de Ciudad de México (MAM).
posted by CheeseDigestsAll (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The idea of a bunch of surrealists taking classes together is quite appealing. I imagine their study sessions; Remedios Varo exclaims, through slit-like eyes, that the hour is getting late, and Buñuel says "No, I've got a bearded chicken!" and Dali checks his watch, which has melted onto the floor.

Come to think of it, this reminds me of my freshman year. We might have been on drugs though.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2008

very nice.
posted by caddis at 8:23 AM on December 16, 2008

I hadn't heard of her. Thanks for this post.
posted by rocket88 at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2008

So you all complained about those flash photography sites, and see what happened? Are you happy now?
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2008

This is actually fantastic to know about. I stumbled across some of her works at the Museum of Modern Art in Chapultepec, Mexico City, and was so mesmerized that I ran out and bought the first biography of her I could find. It was so terribly written I couldn't finish the first chapter.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:14 AM on December 16, 2008

This is my favourite Remedios Varo piece: Vegetarian Vampires.
posted by dhruva at 9:32 AM on December 16, 2008

Great work! I'm a surrealist fanboy and had never heard of her.
posted by kozad at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2008

Thanks for the post, CheeseDigestsAll: while I knew about Varo's work (kind of indirectly via MeFi), I'd not heard of the legal dispute, or about Gruen's death.

There was another post about her work here a few years back.
posted by misteraitch at 11:22 AM on December 16, 2008

For those interested in further reading, by the way, the Catalogo Razonado of her work is a lovely volume—and, (provided the fourth edition is anything like the third) most of its text will be in both Spanish & English
posted by misteraitch at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2008

…she was a classmate of Dali, Buñuel, and García Lorca.…
posted by signal at 1:01 PM on December 16, 2008

I adore Varo, back in perhaps 2001 I saw a huge exhibition of her works at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and it must have been this collection of 39 paintings. It had a huge effect on me as a teenager.
posted by blasdelf at 1:51 PM on December 16, 2008

Leonora Carrington was a close friend of Remedios Varo, and her art is very similar. She had an interesting life too: she was Max Ernst's lover and met Picasso, Dalí and Miro. There's a temporary exhibition of her sculptures in Reforma, one of Mexico City's main avenues.

Here's an interview with Leonora, by one of her cousins who tracked her down and had no idea she's an important artist in Mexico.
posted by clearlydemon at 5:36 PM on December 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

> There's a temporary exhibition of her sculptures in Reforma
I saw that exhibition (I think the same one) in Xalapa.
posted by dhruva at 5:55 PM on December 17, 2008

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