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Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)
Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)

Visita al pasado

Details
Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)
Visita al pasado
signed and dedicated 'Muy cordialmente a mi amigo Crespo de la Serna, R. Varo, aid' (lower right)
graphite and pigment on paper
23¼ x 21 5/8 in. (59 x 55 cm.)
Executed in 1957.
Provenance
Gift from the artist to Jorge Juan Crespo de la Serna, Mexico.
Marcela Ibáñez de la Moya Palencia, Mexico.
Private collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
J. Fernández, Catálogos de las exposiciones de arte, suplementos de los Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Mexico City, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1965, p. 105.
R. Caillois and O. Paz, Remedios Varo, Mexico City, 1st Edition, Ediciones Era, 1966, no. 59 (illustrated).
J. Fernández, Catálogos de las exposiciones de arte, suplementos de los Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Mexico City, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1968, p. 122.
R. Caillois and O. Paz, Remedios Varo, Mexico City 2nd Edition, Ediciones Era, 1969, p. 59 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Obra de Remedios Varo 1908-1963, Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1971, no. 21 (illustrated).
W. Gruen, "Remedios Varo: visión perdurable de una artista" in Siempre!, La Cultura en México, 24 November 1971.
J. Fernández, Catálogos de las exposiciones de arte, suplementos de los Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Mexico City, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1972, p. 122.
19 Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, 1987, p. 287, no. 6.
J.A. Kaplan, Unexpected Journeys: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo, New York, Abbeville Press, 1988, p. 148, no. 129 (illustrated). L. Andrade, Remedios Varo y la alquimia, Thesis, Mexico City, Universidad Iberoamericana, 1990, p. 30.
B. Ruiz, "Llamaba al unicornio, lo aprehendía" in Memoranda, September- October 1990 (illustrated).
W. Gruen, "Remedios Varo, en búsqueda de la armonía" in Remedios Varo. Arte y literatura, Teruel, Spain, 1991, p. 54.
E. Guigon, "Imágenes y textos en la obra de Remedios Varo" in Remedios Varo, arte y literatura, Teruel, Spain, 1991, p. 19.
B. Morris, "El surrealimso extragaláctico de la pintora Remedios Varo" in Turia, no. 21 y 22, Teruel, Spain, October 1992.
Exhibition catalogue, Remedios Varo 1908-1963, Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1994, p. 17, no. 89 (illustrated).
R. Ovalle, W. Gruen, eds. et al., Remedios Varo: Catalogue Raisonné, Mexico City, Ediciones Era, 1994, p. 278, no. 206 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, Remedios Varo, Tokyo, The Tokyo Shimbun, Isetan Museum of Art, 10 - 25 June 1999, p. 75, no. 26 (illustrated, also illustrated on the back cover).
L-M. Lozano, The Magic of Remedios Varo, Washington D.C., National Museum of Women in Arts, 2000, p. 122 (illustrated).
R. Ovalle, W. Gruen, eds. et al., Remedios Varo: Catalogue Raisonné, Mexico City, Third Edition, Ediciones Era, 2002, p. 343, no. 206 (illustrated in color).
R. Ovalle, W. Gruen, eds. et al., Remedios Varo: Catalogue Raisonné, Mexico City, Fourth Edition, Mexico City, 2008, p. 343, no. 206 (illustrated).
A. Ruy Sánchez, T. Arcq eds. et al., Five Keys to the Secret World of Remedios Varo, Mexico City, Artes de México, 2008, p. 106 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, Palacio de Bellas Artes, La obra de Remedios Varo, 3 August 1964, no. 110.
Mexico City, Galería Aristos, Surrealismo y Arte Fantástico en México, July 1967, no. 90.
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Obra de Remedios Varo 1913-1963, 21 October 1971, no. 21.
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Remedios Varo 1908-1963, 25 August 1983.
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Remedios Varo 1908-1963, 25 February- 5 June 1994, no. 89.
Tokyo, The Tokyo Shimbun, Isetan Museum of Art, Remedios Varo, 10 - 25 June 1999, no. 26. This exhibition also travelled to Nagoya, Denki Bunka Kaikan, 27 July- 15 August 1999 and Kamakura, The Museum of Modern Art, 21 October- 28 November 1999.
Washington D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Magic of Remedios Varo, 10 February- 29 May 2000. This exhibition also travelled to Chicago, Mexican Fine Arts Museum, 16 June- 20 August 2000.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

We are grateful to professor Luis-Martín Lozano for his assistance in cataloguing this work.

The oneiric worlds depicted in Remedios Varo's exquisitely rendered paintings and drawings represent an alchemic combination of varied sources ranging from philosophy, autobiography, engineering and architecture to occultism, psychology, spirituality and science. Collectively her oeuvre represents one of the most enigmatic and unique visions within the vanguard surrealist movement of the twentieth century. And, although her relationship with the French poet Benjamin Péret put Varo in direct contact with the members of the Parisian surrealist circle in the late 1930s and 1940s, it was not until the early 1950s that she devoted herself completely to artmaking. Indeed, it was not until Varo was living in Mexico as a member of the European ex-patriot community that she developed her mature style and produced a body of work that remains today as one of the most distinct contributions to the history and practice of surrealist art.


Rendered with Varo's trademark precision and meticulous draftsmanship, Visita al pasado evinces a recurrent theme in the artist's work--the notion of travel whether physical, spiritual, or psychological. As a perennial exile or immigrant--much of Varo's adult life up until her final move to Mexico City was spent in constant upheaval escaping from family, former lovers, and the devastating conditions of war--and thus displacement came to represent a fundamental trope in her practice. As scholar Janet Kaplan well states, Varo "tansform[ed] the idea of travel from a forced necessity into a personal symbol, she developed the image of the journey as a central metaphor in her work, as her characters emerged from the constraints of tradition, memory, fear, and isolation to seek power, creativity, spirituality, and magic."[1]

Executed during the artist's most productive decade, yet sadly just a few years before her death, the delicate drawing Visita al pasado depicts a spectral vision of the artist's adventurous, yet turbulent Parisian past. Varo arrived in Paris in 1937 with the poet Péret whom she had met in Barcelona while still married to the painter Gerardo Lizárraga. The two fled Spain at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and would remain in Paris until 1941 when the circumstances of war made it necessary for them to seek a more welcoming setting in Mexico City. The small chambre mueblée à louer (or furnished room for rent as the sign on the window indicates) is perhaps not unlike the one that the two artists shared in Paris. Here Varo transforms the austere room into a magical yet melancholic tableau in which the protagonist (Varo) appears to revisit her room years later only to find it haunted by her own persistent memories. The sparsely appointed room seems to have become inexplicably animated as the once familiar visitor enters luggage in hand surprised to encounter that the table, upholstered chair and walls are all bursting with her very likeness. Even the small chair in the foreground appears to have been whipped into frenzy at the site of this weary traveler, while the tattered carpet has sprouted a veritable garden of daffodils, weeds and grass. Indeed lurking behind and between every nook and cranny is the lingering evidence of her days past in Paris. Interestingly, Varo would return just once to Paris a year after this rather eerie drawing was made prompted by her desire to see her mother and to visit the ailing Péret who would pass away shortly thereafter. Visita al pasado foreshadows this rather somber return to the City of Lights and despite the physical distance Varo's still uneasy relationship to a world she had long abandoned. And, although deeply autobiographical, Visita al pasado not only posits the underlying thread of Varo's practice--"a restless spiritual journey through the layers of her psyche"[2], but likewise asserts one of the most enduring tenets of surrealism--the passage from reality to the subconscious mind as a source of limitless potential and creativity.


1 Janet A. Kaplan, Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys (New York and London: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1988), 147-148.

2 Kaplan, 147.
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