Remedios Varo Uranga (1908 — 1963) 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.
Renaissance art inspired harmony, tonal nuances, unity, and narrative structure in Varo’s paintings. The allegorical nature of much of Varo’s work especially recalls the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, and some critics, such as Dean Swinford, have described her art as “postmodern allegory,” much in the tradition of Irrealism.
Varo was also influenced by styles as diverse as those of Francisco Goya, El Greco, Picasso, and Braque. While André Breton was a formative influence in her understanding of Surrealism, some of her paintings bear an uncanny resemblance to the Surrealist creations of the modern Greek-born Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico.
In Mexico, she was influenced by pre-Columbian art. Varo’s painting The Lovers served as inspiration for some of the images used by Madonna in the music video for her 1995 single “Bedtime Story”.
She considered surrealism as an “expressive resting place within the limits of Cubism, and as a way of communicating the incommunicable”.
Varo was influenced by a wide range of mystic and hermetic traditions, both Western and non-Western. She turned with equal interest to the ideas of Carl Jung as to the theories of George Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Helena Blavatsky, Meister Eckhart and the Sufis, and was as fascinated with the legend of the Holy Grail as with sacred geometry, alchemy and the I Ching. In 1938 and 1939 Varo joined her closest companions Frances, Roberto Matta and Gordon Onslow Ford in exploring the fourth dimension, basing much of their studies off of Ouspensky’s book Tertium Oganum. The books Illustrated Anthology of Sorcery, Magic and Alchemy by Grillot de Givry and The History of Magic and the Occult by Kurt Seligmann were highly valued in Breton’s Surrealist circle. She saw in each of these an avenue to self-knowledge and the transformation of consciousness.