Remedios Varo’s Strange and Mysterious Universes

CHICAGO — Though relatively unknown in the United States, the Spanish-Mexican painter Remedios Varo is beloved in her adopted Mexico, where she moved as a refugee of World War II. The artist’s enigmatic oeuvre is deceptively compact, but spend any time in front of these self-contained scenes — often housed in incredible architectural spaces, like the celestial tower in “Embroidering the Earth’s Mantle” — and you’ll find they contain universes.

Though she is often called a Surrealist, and while her figures’ heart-shaped faces and spindly forms do evoke those of her friend and fellow European expatriate Leonora Carrington, the internal logic of Varo’s paintings — as is so brilliantly manifest in the one-wheeled, wind-propelled vehicle in “Vagabond” — make that label an uncomfortable fit. Classically trained as a painter at the prestigious Academia de San Fernando in Madrid and the daughter of an engineer, Varo is more meticulous in her process than the other artists of the movement with whom she is often compared.

Featured Image: Remedios Varo, “Armonía” (Harmony) (1956); collection Eduardo F. Costantini (© 2023 Remedios Varo, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Madrid)

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