January 16, 2006


There follow some more details of scans of reproductions of paintings by Remedios Varo. As with my previous entry about Varo, the images are taken from my copy of the 3rd edition of the Catálogo Razonado of her œuvre published by Ediciones ERA of Mexico City in 2002. This time I just picked out an arbitrary selection of some of my favourite paintings from the book. Click on the details to see the pictures in full: note that the full images range between 680Kb and 1.7Mb in size.

Detail from 'Ciencia inútil o El alquimista,' (Useless Science or the Alchemist), oil on masonite, 1955.


Detail from 'Ermitaño,' (Hermit), oil and mother-of-pearl on masonite, 1955.
This is the hermit. [above] He is now beyond normal time and space; his body is made up of two triangles, one upright and one inverted, which form a six-pointed star, symbol of time and space in ancient esoteric teachings. Inside his open chest there is a yin-yang symbol representing inner harmony. This is the most beautiful symbol of all (at least I think so), for it is enclosed in a circle, and has come to signify equilibrium.
Detail from 'El otro reloj,' (The Other Timepiece), preparatory sketch on paper, 1957.


Detail from 'Coincidencia,' (Coincidence), oil on canvas, 1959.
This woman leaving the psychoanalyst’s office [below] drops her father’s head into a small circular well (which is the proper thing to do when leaving the psychoanalyst). The basket she carries holds yet more psychological waste: a pocket watch, symbolizing the fear of arriving late, et cetera. The psychanalyst’s name is Dr. FJA (Freud, Jung and Adler).
Detail from 'Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista,' (Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst), oil on canvas, 1960.


Detail from 'Planta insumisa,' (Unsubmissive Plant), oil on masonite, 1961.
This scientist is experimenting with different plants and vegetable. He is somewhat bewildered because there is an unruly plant [above]. All the plants are growing shoots in the form of mathematical figures and formulas, except for that one that insists on producing a flower. And the only mathematical branch it sprouted at the beginning, which drooped onto the table, is very withered and weak and, besides, is mistaken, for it says ‘two plus two is almost four.’ Each hair on the scientist's head is a mathematical equation.
Detail from 'Niño y mariposa,' (Boy and Butterfly), oil on masonite, 1961.


The quotes above are comments of the artist’s apparently recorded by her brother, Dr. Rodrigo Varo. These I also took from the Catálogo Razonado. The last of the images above is a detail from the final painting that Varo completed before her death in 1963: its title is Naturaleza muerta resucitando, ‘Still Live Reviving.’

Posted by misteraitch at January 16, 2006 10:29 AM

I really love the first and last of these. Some of the others make me wish I had time and energy to write fiction, but just now I don't. Still, coming here is always inspiring, even if the inspiration has to be bottled for a bit. Thank you

Posted by: MissMeliss on January 17, 2006 03:49 AM

i'm partial to 1, 4, and 6 myself. they recall medieval frescos, which i'm very fond of, except in this case the "aged" textural surface is intentional. the care and detail put into many of those frescos is mind blowing. there is a particular stretch of rooms at the met which features some of the most incredible religious miniatures i've ever seen. i have no idea the scale of Varo's works but they look like they were painted with a 3 haired brush. love them. (especially fond of that "feather knife" or is it a "feather pipe?" in #4.) thanks again aitch.

Posted by: jmorrison on January 17, 2006 06:13 PM

oo ... oo ... a smartypants moment:

it's funny that MissMeliss feels an urge to write fiction in the presence of these pictures ... because thomas pynchon uses a varo painting to great effect in The Crying of Lot 49 ...

the painting is titled (i think) "bordando el manto terrestre" ... and pynchon writes:

"... a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world."

Posted by: tom on January 17, 2006 10:31 PM

o well ... um ... i just read yr november post on varo and note yr reference to pynchon ... guess i'm not such a smartypants after all ... but that's in the smartypants nature (i.e. to not see that one's not actually such a smartypants)

Posted by: tom on January 17, 2006 10:38 PM

tom—you still get the points if you remembered the Pynchon reference, which I never would have recalled unaided by google, etc.

Posted by: misteraitch on January 18, 2006 09:27 AM

You'll probably like the paintings of Maruja Mallo, another spanish artist of the same generation.

Posted by: C. Rancio on January 19, 2006 09:19 AM

very beauty

Posted by: lost on January 26, 2006 01:32 PM

I have my eye on #6: the Death Poems volume by Thomas Ligotti.

Posted by: Elizabeth on January 30, 2006 03:37 PM

thanx for sharing these marvellous enigmas

Posted by: tristan forward on January 30, 2006 06:38 PM

i cannot thank you enough for doing these and the prior scans; for as long as they are allowed to reside here on the web, they will continue to work wonders on those who stumble across them. this is how i myself discovered Varo; stumbling across her work a decade ago while at the University of Texas at Austin. to me, the fact that she is not so well known as to be a given suits her purpose perfectly; her works subtly impress themselves on those bound to find them, by and by.

the detailing is mentioned by jmorrison above; i would note that much of her 'sinewy' detailing was achieved through a technique where she would lay paper or cellophane [?] atop the wet paint, then pulling it off slowly to allow nature and physics to work their fractal [our more modern term] magic on the paint. these scans allow examination of the living surfaces achieved.

if you happened to find or scan a similar copy of 'Breaking the Vicious Circle', i would be immensely grateful. ;) in the meantime, those interested in small prints of her work, which should also convey the incredible detail in these works, should visit:


and after that, if you are interested in dreams, surrealism, and the unconscious, i invite you to my open forum; the Atlas of Dreams. http://www.atlasofdreams.com ... where you can even choose a miniature Varo avatar.

- aqaraza [h.m.r.]

Posted by: aqaraza on July 16, 2006 03:58 AM

Aqaraza—thank you for the links: here is a scan of ‘Breaking the Vicious Circle.’

Posted by: misteraitch on July 16, 2006 12:45 PM

Does anybody no the name of painting number 3 its fantastic!

Posted by: Maria on October 25, 2006 01:43 PM

Maria—that piece is called ‘El otro reloj,’ and is a preparatory sketch on paper, dating from 1957.

Posted by: misteraitch on October 25, 2006 02:57 PM


Posted by: on June 6, 2007 08:08 PM
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