Jean Varda, “Veiled Figures.” Fabric, textile, and mixed media collage on board. The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Jean Varda (b. 1893 Smyrna, Turkey – d. 1971 Mexico City, Mexico)
Jean Varda was a charismatic painter, collage and mosaic artist born in 1893 in Smyrna, Turkey. He demonstrated early artistic talent and, during the first World War, moved to London to become a ballet dancer. Eventually, he moved back to Paris where he embraced the avant-garde. Varda was invited to teach painting at BMC in the summer of 1946. His exuberant, playful, colorful personality captivated many in the community that summer. The Greek Party that Varda organized, complete with a Trojan Horse too large to fit inside the Dining Hall, was the highlight of the summer. In the late 1940s, Varda and artist Gordon Onslow Ford renovated an old ferry boat named Vallejo to include studios, a salon, and Varda’s home in Sausalito, CA. It was a famous gathering place and party spot for many years. In 1967, just a few years before his death, Varda’s first cousin Agnes Varda made a documentary film about him called Uncle Yanco.