The Surrealism Website
Enrique Chavarría (1927-1998)




Enrique Chavarría Servin, also known as Enrique Chavarría, was born in an old house in the Colonia Escandon neighborhood of Mexico City where he lived a rather reclusive life with his three maiden aunts. He trained at the Academía San Carlos in Mexico City in the mid-1940s. At that time a number of surrealist artist emigres from Europe, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Bridget Tichenor and Wolfgang Paalen had relocated to Mexico, and Carrington and Varo were then living in Mexico City. In a rare interview he said "I met Remedios Varo when she arrived in Mexico and hadn't begun painting yet, when she was with Benjamin Peret. Clearly I feel an identity with her painting."
Chavarría suffered from a speech impediment that caused him to stutter and made him uncomfortable in public and social situations, so he was not outgoing and would not have been a active part of the social circles around Carrington and Varo. Instead he remained in his house and dedicated his time to painting and studying alchemy.
The American Bryna Prensky took an interest in the younger generation of Mexican artists and opened a gallery in central Mexico City in 1959. She was very drawn to Chavarría's work and made an arrangement with him to buy all his paintings. This gave him an income and allowed him to devote his life to painting.
Because of his reclusive nature, some art historians have tried to categorise his work as 'Outsider Art', however, on looking at his paintings we can see they are clearly in the style of the European verist Surrealism of Varo and Carrington. He was deeply studied in alchemy and various alchemical symbols, even visual quotes from alchemical manuscripts, appear in his paintings, as we note in the untitled work of 1970 and his later piece Transmutation of 1983. He so admired Varo's work that he adopted her pictorial language, using the same sort of perspective and interior spaces she created, however, he added to this his grasp of alchemy. He is certainly not a naive artist working in a vacuum, but one deeply immersed in the surrealist tradition, European mythology, esotericism, alchemy, and is likely to have had some understanding of depth psychology.
He described himself as a painter of fantasy, anatomy, alchemy, literature, mythology, primitive art, and religion and listed Bosch, Varo, Carrington, and Ernst among his inspirations.
He is, sadly, now almost totally neglected.