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  • Provenance

    Collection of the artist
    By descent to Private Collection, Mexico City
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


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

  • Catalogue Essay

    After studying in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, Remedios Varo began an artistic career that would take her from the rigorousness of academia to the creative freedoms of the avant-garde. However, during the process that began with the Logicofobistas in Barcelona to the point of becoming part of André Breton's surrealist group in Paris, Varo stayed faithful to drawing as a creative instrument for exploring and experimenting with the human psyche. In the early 1930s, Varo must have felt limited as a female artist trying to win the respect of her male colleagues in the academic world. Thus, her later association with the avant-garde must be interpreted as a frank desire to free herself from those conventions and to break the boundaries of what a woman with creative urges could achieve with her work. When Varo studied in the Academy she learned about the great tradition of the ancient masters and developed a fascination with the Flemish and Italian painters of the Quattrocento, such that in some of her most mature work, which she would produce in Mexico in the 1950s, she retained that wealth of references to the history of art and more specifically in her use of drawing.

    Varo's production of drawings can be divided in two great groups: the body of work of autonomous creation, that was never translated into painting, and second: the body of work of a large number of drawings that served as outlines, studies and sketches for the execution of all the paintings executed between 1950 and the year of her death, 13 years later. In all of the drawings that belong to the second creative universe, the exactness of the outline, the rigor of the line and the precision of the idea prevail. However, few of them have survived to our day. For Varo, the idea for a painting could emerge in many ways, through suggestions and associations as she confessed, but, in every case, before executing an oil painting, Varo adjusted the vision she had formed by means of one or several drawings. Like a good academic, Varo had learned that the drawing is the intellectual mechanism by which the painter creates the concept and the hand translates through the craft into an image that is the repository of the artist's creativity.

    Thus, in the case of Varo, the outlines first gave way to the idea of the subject and the compositional solution, going on to a phase in which several isolated drawings developed specific details that the outline announced. For instance, this is visible in the handling of cloth, details of the hands and feet, and some outlines of the face. Later all of these drawings were integrated in one great study, perfectly detailed, which served as the literal basis for the composition and central theme of the painting. That is the case of this drawing which is the final study for the painting Fenómeno (Phenomenon) from the year 1962. Instead of drawing on the original support of the painting, Varo traced the drawing of the definitive sketch on a slab of Masonite or on the canvas itself, such that every one of the important paintings that she painted in the last five years of her life is preceded by a sketch of the same size as the painting, and on occasion slightly larger, revealing details of the composition that are eliminated from the final painting. As in this case the completed arches of the architecture that are a homage, both to the Renaissance and the illusory metaphysical architectures of Giorgio de Chirico. This minute technique that doesn't leave room for mistakes, reveals that drawing was the true projection of the imaginary world of the artist and as one can see from the strokes of the graphite on the back side of the paper of this sketch, Varo traced on the masonite which is the base of the painting Fenómeno (Phenomenon), transferring all the spatial details and thematic concept, making the drawing a projection of the painting strictly speaking. The importance of these drawing which, truthfully, have been scarcely studied, lies in the fact that they were not only preparatory sketches for a painting, but also because the esthetic concept and the fantastic imaginary world that Remedios Varo conceived as an artist is implicit in them.

    Professor Luis-Martín Lozano
    Mexico City, April 2015

  • Artist Biography

    Remedios Varo

    Spanish / Mexican • 1908 - 1963

    Spanish-born Remedios Varo is widely recognized as a pioneer of Surrealism in Latin America. Varo formally trained at Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid and spent many of her formative years in Barcelona and Paris. While in Paris, Varo met Andre Breton and many other members of the Surrealist circle, including Max Ernst and Roberto Matta. With the onset of World War II and the Nazi occupation of France, Varo fled to Mexico along with other European artists and intellectuals including Kati Horna, Leonora Carrington and Gunther Gerzso.  While Varo's work was undoubtedly influenced by Breton's surrealist writings, her mature works are often reminiscent of both Italian and Flemish Renaissance paintings in their allegorical nature and use of subtle tonalities.

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34

Study for “Phenomenon”

1962
pencil on tracing paper
26 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. (67.9 x 47 cm)

Estimate
$90,000 - 120,000 

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York 26 May 2015 4pm