Spanish painter and designer, active for most of her career in Mexico. She was born at Anglés, near Girona, the daughter of a hydraulic engineer, and studied at the Academy in Madrid. From 1930 to 1932 she lived in Paris, then settled in Barcelona. In 1936 she met the French Surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, who was fighting with the Republicans against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. When the Republicans were defeated, the couple moved to Paris, where they married in 1937 (Varo had earlier been briefly married to a fellow student in Madrid). Through her husband, Varo was drawn into the Surrealist movement: she exhibited in the International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris in 1938, for example, and her paintings were reproduced in Minotaure. In 1942 the couple fled German-occupied France and settled in Mexico City, where several exiled Surrealists had already taken up residence, notably Leonora Carrington (who became a close friend of Varo) and Wolfgang Paalen. Varo separated from Péret in 1948. Initially she earned her living in Mexico as a commercial artist and designer, and did not paint full time until 1953; most of her surviving paintings therefore date from the last decade of her life. Characteristically they depict strange, delicately painted figures set in a weird fantasy world; the atmosphere is often claustrophobic, but sometimes accompanied by a sense of whimsical humour rather than of menace, drawing on imagery from the tarot and from alchemy.
From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.