Jean Varda was a legendary iconoclast in the 20th century art world. Acclaimed in Europe for his “Byzantine-Cubist mosaics,” fashioned from broken glass, mirrors, and crockery, and later, after he moved to the United States, for his colorful collages, he was equally acknowledged as a teacher, a raconteur, and a man of infinite charm and wit. Yet by the time of his death in 1971, Varda was known primarily as an outlandish character who surrounded himself with very young women and lived and partied on a wreck of an old ferryboat in Sausalito, near San Francisco. Almost half a century later, he has been all but forgotten.
With this first full-length biography of Jean Varda, Elizabeth Leavy Stroman has vividly brought this piece of hidden history back to light. Stroman takes the reader from Varda’s birthplace in the ancient Ottoman Empire to France and England, where he consorted with Braque, Picasso, Matisse, and writers like Ezra Pound, Aldous Huxley, and Dylan Thomas. Then she recounts his days in California, where his friends included Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Maya Angelou, and Alan Watts and he presided over a raucous, often libertine sub-culture of artists and hangers-on who scandalized mainstream society with their antics.
UPDATE: Copies of The Art and Life of Jean Varda are now available for purchase.
Preview the Book
Wednesday, February 10, 2016. Noon, Sausalito City Hall, 420 Litho Street, Edgewater Room. Author talk and slide presentation. Sponsored by Sausalito Village. Free and open to all
Friday, March 18, 2016. 7:00 P.M. The Beat Museum, 540 Broadway, San Francisco. San Francisco writer Herb Gold, will reminisce about his friendship with Varda. Check back on this website for further information about this special event.
Tuesday, April 5, 2016. 7:30 P.M. Belvedere-Tiburon Library, 1501 Tiburon Blvd., Tiburon. Author talk and slide presentation.
Reviews and press
"The Art and Life of Jean Varda makes clear that Varda, better known today as an outlandish character than as a serious artist, was in fact both. Stroman cuts through the myths that Varda created about himself, while celebrating them at the same time. A lively book, deeply researched, well illustrated."
— David Weinstein, CA-Modern Magazine | Eichler Network
Stroman successfully captures the Bohemian spirit and ultimately charming character of this complicated man in The Art and Life of Jean Varda, published by Purple Cottage Press. Organized chronologically as an illustrated biography, the book is a delight to read and beautiful, too, well served by its extreme-horizontal format (it’s 14 inches wide but just 8 inches tall) and often collage-like layouts, which echo one of the artist’s signature techniques.
New! Check this out
Lib at Large: Writer pens bio of legendary Sausalito artist Jean Varda
Paul Liberatore, a reporter at the Marin Independent Journal, has written a great article about Varda and the book: http://www.marinij.com/general-news/20150829/lib-at-large-writer-pens-bio-of-legendary-sausalito-artist-jean-varda
About the Author
Elizabeth Leavy Stroman is the author of A Place of Innocent Recreations: History of the Sausalito Library. She has been an editor and writer for the Sausalito Historical Society and writes occasional articles for The Marin Scope. A past president of the Sausalito Library Board and a retired attorney, she lives with her husband in Sausalito, California.