Blind Contour Drawing #16 “Composition avec tache rouge” 1916 Maria Blanchard

María Blanchard was born in Santander in Cantabria, Spain. Her mother had an accident during her pregnancy that meant Blanchard was born with severe disabilities such as a deformation of the spine. As a result, she had a hunchback and found it very difficult to walk. She was teased heavily at school, which left her emotional scarred. However, Blanchard found painting to be a great way of escaping and expressing how she felt.

Her family was a huge influence in Blanchard’s decision to follow a career in art. Her father provided her with love and knowledge of art, and he helped to cultivate her artistic talent in drawing.

In 1903, Blanchard moved to study in Madrid where she began training with Spanish artists such as Emilio Sala and Manuel Benedito. With Sala, Blanchard learnt the precision of drawing and the expressive use of colour.

In 1909, after winning the third prize for one of her paintings at the ‘Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes,’ the Santander government decided to fund her education in the arts with a grant. With this aid, Blanchard went to study in Paris at the ‘Academie Vitti.’ While at the Academy, she discovered Cubism.

At the beginning of the WWI, Blanchard left Paris and returned to Madrid. She began teaching art in Salamanca and participated in some expositions. After the war, she returned to Paris, where she would spend the rest of her life.

In Paris, Blanchard began spending time with the many Cubist artists living there, and she was particularly good friends with the Cubist Spanish painter, Juan Gris. His influence can be seen in many of her paintings. She joined the Cubist art group and soon began developing her own style, involving bold colour that would often clash. Her paintings were very expressive and often intimidating. In the view of Jacques Lipchitz, Blanchard brought expressiveness and, above all, feeling to Cubism.

Her work attracted the attention of the most important art dealer at the time, Léonce Rosenberg. By 1919, he organized her first individual exhibition of cubist works. The following year she exhibited work in Belgium and France. In 1921, she showed work at the ‘Société des Artistes Indépendants.’ Her work was in high demand, however, due to the economic crisis following this period, many collectors stopped investing in her work. So despite her success, she became destitute. She had to rely on her friend, Frank Flausch, to support her and he did so until her death.

Blanchard’s good friend, Gris died in 1927, and the loss of this close friendship was too much for her to take. She became a recluse, even refusing to see any of her other artist friends. However, she did continue to paint.

Unfortunately, her health gradually got worse over the coming years, and at one point she contracted tuberculosis which made it impossible for her to paint. Eventually, in 1932, Blanchard died at the age of fifty-one.

Blanchard has been and continues to be one of the great unknown artists of the early 20th century. In the forties, it has been confirmed that her signature was removed from some of her work in order to add the name, Gris because of his higher market value. Art history tends to focus on Blanchard’s appearance and personal struggles with her health but recent investigation reveals that she was admired by her peers for her strong character and earned the respect of her colleagues, a difficult feat at the time, in a environment dominated by men. Curator, Maria Jose Salazar recently wrote that “her work has remained in the background in comparison with that of her avant-garde peers and friends. However, Blanchard was equal and in some cases superior to the latter, above all in her particular way of understanding and perceiving Cubism.”


Born: March 6, 1881 Santander, Spain
Died: April 5, 1932 Paris, France


Blind Contour Drawing #6 – “Meeting” Remedios Varo 1959

Even though she died before it began, I feel that Remedios Varo was a pioneer to the Feminist art movement that began in the late 1960’s.

Remedios Varo whose full name was María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga was born in the town of Anglès in Girona, Spain. She was encouraged by her family to pursue art from an early age and when the family moved to Madrid she attended the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando at the age of fifteen.  At the Academy, she worked with other great Spanish painters like Salvador Dalí.

She married one of her classmates, Gerardo Lizárraga and the two left to live in Paris in 1931.  They returned after a year and moved to Barcelona where they began working in advertising.

In 1935, the couple separated and she joined a group of Surrealists artists. She began to develop her own style and felt more aligned to a group known as ‘Logicofobista’, whose aim was to represent the mental state of the internal soul in a Surrealist style. She created her painting ‘L´Agent Double’ (Double Agent), a painting that defined her style.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, her opposition to the Fascists led her to meet the French poet Benjamin Péret who she married in 1937.  The couple fled to Paris in 1937 where she immersed herself in the Surrealist scene. In 1938, Varo displayed her piece, ‘Il est tard’ (He is late), at the International Surrealism Exposition.

In 1941, when the Nazis invaded France, they fled to Mexico.  They initially thought that they would only stay in there during the war but she spent most of the rest of her life there. Péret returned to Paris in 1947 and Varo continued to support herself as an advertising artist in Venezuela.  She returned to Mexico and met Austrian politician Walter Gruen, with whom she would spend the rest of her life. He convinced her to give up drawing and to dedicate herself instead to painting.

Varo’s work was extremely varied but by 1949, she had discovered her mature style of painting. She often used oil paints on masonite panels and she used very fine, over-lapping brushstrokes. Her paintings were inspired by personal childhood memories. Her work was highly mystical but she often included scientific iconography in her work.

Varo surrounded herself with a group of likeminded women like Leonora Carrington and Kati Horna who were also interested in alchemy and the occult. The three, sometimes referred to as ‘the three witches,’ focussed on achieving a higher spiritual life and were sensitive to feminine consciousness.  They were determined to fight for the freedom of women from repressive patriarchal hierarchies and Varo repeated motifs of the cage and the tower in her work to illustrate the struggle.  Their relationship was also important as it reflected the need for female artists to create supportive networks.

In 1955, Varo presented some of her work at a collective exhibition at the Diana Gallery in Mexico, and the following year she held a solo exhibition. During her time in Mexico, she also met famous native Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. In 1963 she died of a heart attack in Mexico.

It was not until the last 13 years of her life, finally free of ongoing financial constraints that she was able to paint prolifically.


Born 1908 Anglès, Spain

Died 1963 Mexico