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Rupture, 1955. Oil on Masonite, 36-3/8 x 22-3/4 in. Private collection.Clutching her cloak protectively, the girl, so self-contained and seemingly alone, faces squarely away from the building; but her eyes have rolled up like the identical pairs of eyes that follow her every move from the buildings arched windows. These are the watchful eyes of tradition and the past from which she is making a break, the restrictive scrutiny that had prompted her to bury her childhood fantasy stories, the intrusive spying against which she had guarded her doorway with sugar. Although life in a strict Spanish family and education in a convent surely did involve numerous watchful eyes, it is also true that, for Remedios, the watching was as intensely imagined, as it was real. As her widower, Walter Gruen, has suggested, no matter how much freedom Varo might have had as a girl, she would never have felt it was enough.
Revelation or the Clockmaker, 1955. Oil on Masonite, 27-7/8 x 33 in. Private collection.A clockmaker at his bench is surrounded by grandfather clocks, each of which shows the same time but contains a figure wearing a different period costume. Suddenly, a whirling disk spins into his window and he looks up, as Varo described it, with
Remedios VaroMost of Varos personages bear the delicate heart-shaped face with large almond eyes, long sharp nose, and thick mane of lively hair that marked the artists own appearance. The personae she created thus serve as self-portraits transmuted through fantasy. Despite her warning--
Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst, 1960. Oil on canvas, 27-7/8 x 16-1/8 in. Private collection.Whether Varo herself ever sought psychiatric help is undocumented. Her letters to unknown psychiatrists, filled with descriptions of ridiculous imaginary crisis, and pleas for help, were surely written in jest, as was her proposal for a psychoanalytic clinic in which one could choose either to live out ones own fantasies or to work against someone elses. Yet she was known as a deeply anxious woman who harbored many fears.
Personage, 1958. Oil on Masonite, 30-3/8 x 19-1/4 in. Private collection.
Remedios Varo
Unexpected Journeys

By Janet A. Kaplan

Size: 7 x 10", 
Paperback, 288 pages
198 illustrations, 50 in full color
Published 2000
ISBN: 978-0-7892-0627-5
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The adventures that fill the strange and wonderful paintings by Remedios Varo (1908-1963) reflect the physical and psychological journeys of her own tumultuous life.

-- WINNER of the New York Book Award

"A unique and inspiring visual journey." -- Artforum

"Kaplan has written a lively, informative narrative that zips along like an adventure story." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

"This beautifully written and illustrated book, full of wonders, is a joy to read and behold... This journey through the art and life of Remedios Varo with Janet Kaplan as guide is art history and art criticism at its best." -- Belles Lettres

Raised in a strict Spanish family and rigorously trained in academic art, Varo first found escape in Barcelonas bohemian avant-garde. After fleeing the Spanish Civil War with the poet Benjamin Péret, later her husband, she entered the inner circle of the Surrealists in Paris. Forced to flee again by the Nazis, she and Péret faced a year of mounting danger in Marseilles before securing passage to Mexico. Finding welcome refuge in Mexico City, where she remained until her death, Varo produced the extraordinary paintings for which she gained renown.

Janet A. Kaplans vivid chronicle, the first on the subject in English, weaves Varos life with the artists exquisite work. Painted with a jewellike palette and old-master precision, Varos intimate tableaux, rich with details of womens experience, tell fantasy tales of alchemy, science, mysticism, and magic. Fifty color reproductions capture the wit and beauty of her major paintings; numerous black and white illustrations document other works and portray the compelling artist with her circle of lifelong friends and admirers. The book is further enlivened by her own voice, conveyed in hilarious letters and surreal stories, published here for the first time. It concludes with an invaluable chronology as well as a newly updated bibliography and list of exhibitions.

A woman of intense magnetism and powerful imagination, Varo had been little known outside Mexico, but she has recently found enthusiastic audiences in Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Japan. The fascinating story of her life and the dazzling intricacy of her art will prove a revelation.

With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Moore College of Art, Janet A. Kaplan traveled through Spain, France, Morocco, and Mexico, tracking the life of Varo and interviewing dozens of the artists friends and family. Dr. Kaplan, who received her Ph.D. from Columbia University, lectures and writes on topics related to twentieth-century and contemporary art, with special emphasis on womens issues and art and politics. A resident of Philadelphia, she is professor of art history at Moore College of Art and Design, on the graduate faculty at the MFA in Visual Art program at Vermont College, and executive editor of Art Journal, a publication of the College Art Association.

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