Swiss, 1900-1977

Varlin is one of the most celebrated Swiss painters of the 20th century, renowned for his combining of the Expressionist emphasis on moody figural distortion with the preoccupation with light and indeterminacy of the Impressionists. Varlin took his pseudonym at the urging of his dealer Leopold Zborovski (who also discovered Amedeo Modigliani and Chaïm Soutine), who worried that his given name, Willy Guggenheim, bore unappealing bourgeois connotations. Varlin’s lengthy career was an exploration of the capability of oil painting to trap and convey emotional experiences; to this end, his paintings—anguished portraits, evocative still lifes, and landscapes—were heavily worked and required many studies conducted both in situ and in the studio.

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