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Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED SPANISH COLLECTION
Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)

Vampiros vegetarianos

Details
Remedios Varo (Spanish/Mexican 1908-1963)
Vampiros vegetarianos
signed 'R.Varo' (lower right)
oil on canvas
33 ¾ x 23 ¾ in. (85.7 x 60.3 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Provenance
Phillippe Chancellor collection, Mexico City.
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. 104.
O. Paz and R. Caillois, Remedios Varo, first edition, Mexico, D.F., Ediciones Era, 1966, p. 54 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Obra de Remedios Varo 1908-1963, Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, 1971, n.p. (illustrated).
I.Rodríguez Prampolini, “Las expresiones plásticas contemporáneas de México,” Cuarenta siglos de plástica mexicana: Arte moderno y contemporáneo, Herrero, Mexico, 1971, p. 215 (illustrated in color).
K. Petersen and J. Wilson, Women Artists: Recognition and Reappraisal from the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, New York University Press, New York, 1976, p. 132 (illustrated).
E. Jaguer, Remedios Varo, Paris, Filipacchi, 1980, p. 56 (illustrated in color).
R. Ovalle and W. Gruen, Remedios Varo: catálogo razonado, first edition, Mexico, D.F., Ediciones Era, 1994, p. 221, n. 345 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Remedios Varo, Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art and Denki Bunka Kaikan, and Kamakura, The Museum of Modern Art, 1999, p. 117, no. 58 (illustrated in color).
J. Kaplan, Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys, first paperback edition, New York, Abbeville Press, 2000, p. 240 (illustrated).
Exhibition catalogue, The Magic of Remedios Varo, Washington D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts and Chicago, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 2000, p. 70 (illustrated in color).
L. Andrade, Remedios Varo: las metamorfosis, second edition, Mexico, D.F., Círculo de Arte, 2001, p. 61 (illustrated in color).
R. Ovalle and W. Gruen, Remedios Varo: catálogo razonado, third edition, Mexico, D.F., Ediciones Era, 2002, p. 281, n. 345 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Women Surrealists in Mexico, Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Osaka, Suntory Museum, Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum and Kochi, The Museum of Art, 2003-2004, p. 113 (illustrated in color).
R. Ovalle and W. Gruen, Remedios Varo: catálogo razonado, fourth edition, Mexico, D.F., Ediciones Era, 2008, p. 280, n. 345 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
Mexico City, Galería Juan Martín, Óleos recientes de Remedios Varo, June 1962.
Mexico City, Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, Palacio de Bellas Artes, La obra de Remedios Varo, August 1964, no. 65.
Mexico City, Galería Aristos, Surrealismo y arte fantástico en México, July 1967.
Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, Obra de Remedios Varo 1908-1963, October 1971.
Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, Remedios Varo, 10-25 June 1999, no. 58. This exhibition also travelled to Tokyo, 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 Center Museum, 16 June–20 August 2000.
Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Women Surrealists in Mexico, 19 July – 7 September 2003, no. 54. This exhibition also travelled to Osaka, Suntory Museum, 13 September–19 October 2003, Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum, 1 November–21 December 2003, and Kochi, The Museum of Art, 4 January–22 February 2004.
Sacramento, California, The Crocker Art Museum, Arte Mexicano: Legacy of the Masters, 12 October 2014–1 February 2015.

Lot Essay

Delightfully macabre, wickedly humorous and yet also touched with a hint of melancholy, Vampiros vegetarianos is representative of Remedios Varo at the height of her powers and career. In 1962 she had her second one-woman show at the Galería Juan Martín in Mexico City and received so much positive attention that she became overwhelmed with requests for her work. As Janet Kaplan has noted[1], this long-awaited success was tempered with increasing anxiety about her health and aging and indeed, Varo passed away of a heart attack in October of 1963.

The scene is situated in a windowless medieval looking chamber, as in many of her paintings, and is illuminated by starlight from an oculus replete with a delicate silvery balustrade. Three emaciated characters sit around a bistro-style table eagerly sipping liquid from long thin straws. Looking more like skeletons, or even the Calaveras made for the Mexican a de los Muertos celebrations, they seem to be gaining in vitality before our very eyes. Their robes, made in the surrealist decalcomania technique so favored by Varo, take on a fiery glow with their tattered threads springing up like plants newly watered.

Another visually arresting aspect of these vampires is their headgear, a play on Mercury’s winged helmet—but here those of bats have replaced the birds’ wings. Birds, bats, wings, flying creatures of all sorts are a staple in Varo’s work, often hinting at flights of fancy and mystical ascendancy. Like in a stereotypical Parisian café, two pampered pets on gossamer-thin leashes patiently sit under the chairs. These whimsical creatures, half rooster and half cat, are pictorial relatives of the many hybrid creatures featured in the paintings of the surrealist Leonora Carrington, Varo’s closest friend in Mexico.

The focus of the work and locus of the title’s pun is the meal on the table, a scattering of red fruits so meticulously rendered and brilliantly hued that they glow like embers. A number of scholars have noted the impact that viewing Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights at the Prado Museum had on the youthful Varo studying art in Madrid. The many strawberries, cherries and other red fruits in the central panel of Bosch’s triptych, gleefully hinting at man’s sensuous and sinful nature, are perhaps distant relatives of the watermelon, tomatoes and rose-carved fruit in Varo’s work.[2] Both Varo and Carrington loved animals but were not strict vegetarians and if this painting had any peripheral relationship to actual food, it would most likely refer to the vital energies existing in all living entities, a key belief in most esoteric philosophies. But on the more entertaining side, the tomatoes on the table are the main ingredients in a popular cocktail mixer used in Mexico known as sangrita. Drinks made with tequila and sangrita are known as Vampiros Mexicanos. A favorite cocktail of Carrington, one can imagine her and Varo drinking Vampiros Mexicanos as they merrily planned one of their many naughty hijinks.

Susan Aberth, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson

1 Janet Kaplan, Unexpected Journeys: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988, 223.
2 This correlation is mentioned in the Master’s Thesis of Valentina Amaral, Esoteric Humorous Subversion in the Mature Work of Remedios Varo, 2013, Christie’s Education, New York, 25-28.

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