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Biography of Joan Miro Spanish Painter - History

Biography of Joan Miro Spanish Painter - History


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Joan Miro Biography


Joan Miro Ferra was an influential 20th-century painter, sculptor, ceramicist and printmaker, who was born in 1893 in the Catalan region of Spain, near Barcelona. He began drawing as a young boy, and later attended a business school, as well as La Lonja School of Fine Arts. At the latter school, he was encouraged by two teachers one encouraged him to revive the spirit of primitive Catalan art, combining it with modern discoveries and techniques. (This was in the beginning of the 20th century, at the time modern art was just beginning in Europe, and the creative climate was energetic and progressive.) As a youth, he was exposed to the rich folklore of Catalonia, which later influenced his images, such as how he saw all-natural forms as beings, including pebbles and trees. He was also exposed to complete interiors of ninth to twelfth-century frescoed churches in visits to the Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, with their relatively crude execution and their simple, flat and cartoon-like imagery. They also used primary colors, all heavily outlined in black, with a darkly shaded surrounding field, as well as the also modern treatment of space as a flat surface rather than the traditional illusion of depth in an image (perspective, etc.). All of these elements can be seen in Miro's work, as well as the use of differences of scale, where one form is disproportionately larger than others, a method often used by children when they make the objects most important to them the biggest objects in the image.

After 3 years of business school, Miro took a job as an accounting clerk in a drugstore, which was the type of position his parents chose for him. He was overworked there, and became seriously ill, verging on a 'nervous breakdown,' followed by a bout of typhoid fever. His parents then took him to their new country farm, Montroig, in a secluded village in Catalonia. The state of his health caused his parents to allow him to do what he most wanted to do - paint. He attended the Academy Gali in Barcelona (a free-spirited academy with the influence of contemporary foreign painters, where there was also interest in literature and music). The individual expression was encouraged Miro also learned to draw by the sense of touch alone, rather than by sight. At this time (around 1915), Dada was beginning, and Miro began reading avant-garde Surrealist poets such as Apollinaire and Pierre Reverdy. He met Josep Llorens y Artigas, who was to become a lifelong friend, and with whom he was to collaborate in pottery projects in the years to come. Miro was also influenced by Fauvism (specifically Henri Matisse) and Cubism, which started in the early years of the 20th century, and at first painted still lifes. (Spain has a historical tradition of mystical still lifes, which combine commonplace objects with eerie lighting against total blackness.) From 1915 to 1918 he painted nudes, then portraits, then landscapes. At this point, he began "geometricizing" the forms, and used colors independently of their local color (like the Fauves, who used bright colors not seen in nature). He also began searching for signs and symbols to represent humans and animals in tension or movement. His two biggest influences when young had been Paul Cezanne, Manet, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh. The Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona was a gathering place for foreign visitors here Miro met Francis Picabia, a Dadaist painter. Miro's work had gone through a period of free expressiveness he now decided to tighten up somewhat, doing landscapes until 1921-22. His best-known work from this period is The Farm, a view of his parents' farm. The work done during this time shows minute details, using the precision of a naive primitive painter. At this time, and all his life, he was influenced by his Catalan heritage, such as the decorated Catalan pottery, and the Catalan murals which were restored in the 1920's, and painted in flat patterns in a folk style. He was also at this time beginning to be influenced by Surrealism (which began in the 1920's), and his work now took on a more spare look (paring down to essentials).

In 1919 he took his first trip to Paris, visiting Picasso in his studio. The painters Francis Picabia, Salvador Dali, Antoni Tapies, and the architect Antoni Gaudi were also born in Catalonia. Although Picasso was born in Malaga, in the Andalusian region of Spain, he was influenced by Catalan art. In Miro's life, there were three important places: Montroig (in Catalonia), Barcelona and Paris. (Catalonia is located in the northeast part of Spain, close to France, and Catalan culture is very close to the culture of the south of France. The Catalan people have always been very independent people, holding fast to their language and traditions.) One year later, he visited Paris again, meeting Surrealist poets Pierre Reverdy and Tristan Tzara. At this time he attended the first Dada demonstration in Paris. And finally, he moved to Paris, at an exciting time for young artists, who shared a supportive friendship. In 1923, there was a big change in Miro's art, moving toward more sign-like forms (i.e., like hieroglyphs), geometric shapes, and overall rhythm. There was also a move toward a more overall composition, with The Harlequin's Carnival of 1924-25. This overall type of composition was later used by Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and other modernists rather than using a focal point such as that used in traditional painting, the composition encompassed the entire picture surface equally in all places. His forms included cats, butterflies, mannequins, and Catalan peasants, and there was visual movement in his images. Surrealism began at this time, with the writer Andre Breton issuing the Surrealist Manifesto. Surrealism was supposed to be a fusion of reality and the dream, a sort-of "super" reality. Breton felt that Miro's work had an innocence and freedom about it. Miro showed his work in Surrealist exhibitions, and was influenced especially by the Surrealist poets, who in their quest to tap the unconscious mind played games like the "exquisite corpse" in order to compose poems. Exquisite corpse was a technique where a dictionary was passed around in a group of poets, who would each choose a word randomly from it. Whatever words came up, they would organize into a poem this is how the phrase "exquisite corpse" was created. They also used the techniques of psychic automatism (like free association), and "systematic derangement of senses." Miro and other painters (such as Andre Masson) worked out a way to transfer these techniques to their visual medium, using their dreams and visual free association. Miro painted about 100 paintings from his dreams at this time this was his most Surrealist period. He also illustrated Surrealist poems in collaborations with poets. Another concept introduced by the Dadaists was the element of chance or accident in art. They would start with a splotch of fluid, then add to it to make a painting. "The painter works like the poet first the word, then the thought," is a quote that tries to describe how artists and poets may see or think of a concrete image or word, before they have formulated the idea or "symbolism" behind it. At this time, Miro was influenced by the work of Francis Picabia and Giorgio de Chirico. Although he exhibited with the Surrealists, and was friends with many of them, he never submitted himself totally to their movement, and did not sign the Surrealist Manifesto, perhaps because of the radical political activities of the Surrealists, who were also very interested in the psychological ideas of Sigmund Freud and Jung.

In 1927 and 1928, Miro painted figures derived from Catalan folk art. In 1928 he began painting images based on postcards of some Dutch interiors he had seen in Holland, by such painters as Jan Steen. The images he worked from were crowded with forms he gradually simplified the forms and stripped the image down greatly, using geometric divisions and curving movements in the compositions. At this time he moved further away from his points of departure, and began using unusual sources, such as a diesel motor, influenced by Surrealist thinking. From 1928 to 1929 he produced a number of collages in Paris he had moved closer to Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Paul Eluard and Jean Arp, so was influenced more by the work of these Surrealist painters and one poet. Max Ernst in particular is known for his collages. In Surrealist art there were two tendencies: the representational imagery of Dali and Magritte, and the more abstracted images of Masson and Miro, though both were affected by Surrealist ideas of anti-logic and the subconscious and Dali's and Magritte's images, though painted in a highly realistic fashion, depict objects and scenes which do not appear in the rational world, such as a train coming through a fireplace into a room, or melting clocks. By 1929, Miro had finished the first phase of his art-making, and he began to question and reappraise his work during the following 10 years, which were a struggle for him, financially and artistically. He began experimenting with materials - doing papiers colles and collages, using pictures of ordinary objects such as household utensils, machines, and real nails, string, etc. This period of experimentation helped him to drop any lingering traditional practices, and eliminate usual habits of working. By using objects of no significance, artists are able to concentrate on the abstract qualities of objects, rather than their associated meanings or emotions, allowing for more formal freedom the viewer also is less able to attach literal meanings to the images. These "neutral" subjects with little aesthetic value or significance take the attention away from the subject matter and toward the forms and content in the image. After creating these collages, Miro would make a painting of the collage - transferring a flat collage image onto the equally flat canvas. These paintings from the collages are highly refined and strongly graphic images, and even though they contain no identifiable subject matter, the paintings do contain content, or meaning. Although Miro is often characterized as an abstract painter, he himself considered that he was not - he even felt it an insult to call his work abstract, since he claimed that every form in his images was based on something in the external world, just simplified into his characteristic biomorphic shapes and curving lines. In the 1930's, conflict was active around the world, in particular the Spanish Civil War and the beginnings of World War II. Many atrocities occurred during the Spanish Civil War, inflicted by Franco's fascist forces, as depicted by Picasso in his famous Guernica. Although Miro was not a political artist, his forms during this time depict certain brutality, with distortions and garish color. He created a mural for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris Exposition of 1937, called The Reaper.

In 1940 and '41, he began his well-known series of 22 Constellations, which consist of black dots representing stars on a white ground, using gouache and thinned oil on paper. These are very intricate works, with every part of the canvas activated. The carefully placed dots create a 'jumping' or 'dancing' sense of movement, even a "connect the dots" feeling. They remind views of late work of Piet Mondrian, when he discovered American jazz - Broadway Boogie-Woogie of 1947, which has the same visual movement, and a cool, dancing quality of the little squares. However, Miro's work tends toward more of cosmic awareness - these are stars, rather than just abstracted dots (painted poetry).

Miro stayed in Spain during World War II, his work is influenced by the night, music and stars. His forms became even more abstracted, and he used a number of techniques in his work, for example whenever lines intersected, there was a splash of primary color when red and black overlap there is yellow. He gave the works evocative titles such as The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers. In 1942 he began his interest in engraving and ceramics (with his friend Artigas, a highly skilled potter), and in 1944 he returned to painting, now adding a calligraphic quality to his images. By now he was beginning to gain international fame, due to his 1941 retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his presence in the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1947 in Paris, organized by Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton. That year he was invited to do a mural commission for a hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was 30 feet long. In 1950 and '51 he did another mural for the Graduate Center at Harvard, which consisted of loosely squared blocks of color combined with black lines and small areas of pure color. These elements form cartoonish figures. (This mural was later replaced by Miro's ceramic mural.) During the 1940's he also painted some "stick figures," and in the 1950's his images contained forms that were almost like primitive pictographs. In his paintings, forms often do not touch the edges of the picture area - most are an even distance away from the edges, with perhaps one small element touching the edge of the canvas at the top or elsewhere. His backgrounds also have become more mottled now, rather than flat areas of paint, which gives the images more of a sense of visual depth. Despite not contacting the edges completely, his forms at this time still manage to have an overall type of composition. He also began painting ceramics during this time. After the War, after having been in seclusion, he spent time with artist friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder and Yves Tanguy in New York. He was influenced by his time in America, particularly by life in the City of New York, which consisted of bright lights and a kind of sensory bombardment, sometimes stressful. In 1948 he returned to Paris and had several exhibitions. Some of his works now are carefully composed and executed, and others are deliberately spontaneous and experimental. In the early 1950's he began to merge these two tendencies in his work, with a painterly background, linear black and white forms, and touches of pure color. During the 1950's he developed a brand new approach, using the painting methods of primitive man, making painted and carved forms. At this time, he had his lifelong dream of a "big studio" made a reality, and he surrounded himself with all of the objects he had collected over years in walks, such as polished stones, driftwood, seashells, horseshoes, farm implements, etc. This also reflected the Surrealist interest in special, magical objects, like talismans. Their simple forms encouraged the simple forms in his work. From 1945 to '50, he had carved small figures in clay, like primitive fertility goddesses, and simple vases of bird and head forms. Between 1954 and 1960 he produced his greatest ceramic output, with the aid of Josep Llorens y Artigas, who provided technical expertise for his creations. They had the use of a very large kiln for Miro to bake his increasingly large ceramic forms, which he created in individual parts to be reconnected after firing. They wanted to produce ceramic works which were not simply paintings transferred to ceramic, but in deference to the ceramic medium itself. Their big project was to convert Miro's art objects to the ceramic medium. They started with large stone blocks suggested by natural rock formations in the countryside, then did small pebble and egg forms. They made vases, dishes and bowls, and added forms to these, to produce objects of no practical use. Finally, he created entirely invented forms. They developed a highly refined glazing process, using 3 to 8 firings for each piece. Because of the unpredictability of a kiln, pieces may fall apart or bring unexpected results. The use of the raku method of pottery, baking with a wood fire, produces effects not seen with gas or electric kilns. Miro learned to control these whims of the kiln to a great degree, and there resulted 232 pieces, which he sent to Paris in 1956 for a show at the Galerie Maeght. The effect of this show in the gallery was powerful, having a strong effect on viewers - his primitive forms standing and sitting throughout, like a paleolithic forest. Miro also produced his first bronze sculpture at this time. In 1955 he was commissioned to decorate UNESCO's new building in Paris he made a ceramic design in keeping with the building's design. For this project, he and Artigas inspected the cave paintings of Altamira and Romanesque frescoes in the Barcelona Museum, as well as the architect Gaudi's decorations. Miro was awarded the Guggenheim Prize in 1958 for this work.

In 1959 he returned to painting again, and his work was now informed by his experiences in other mediums. In 1962 he painted Mural Painting III, an extremely spare image having a solid yellow-orange surface, with two small black dots and three irregular lines, a spare, painterly image. During the 1960's he devoted more time to the mediums of printmaking, ceramics, murals and sculpture. One reason for his interest in these other mediums was that they involved collaborating with other people, rather than the solitary activity of painting. Also, printmaking's production of many images rather than just one original appealed to him.

Miro's influence on the art of the later 20th century is great some artists who were influenced by him include Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and expressive abstract painters. Perhaps the original color field painter was Matisse, and perhaps Miro's use of a large field of color was due to Matisse's influence. Painters who came afterward who use the color field include Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski and Morris Louis. Miro's vast fields of color also introduced the idea of "empty" space being as valuable as occupied space in painting. Here is a 1958 Miro quote from Twentieth-Century Artists on Art:

The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I'm overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains - everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me.”

His characteristic biomorphic form was also influential in 20th century abstraction, with Alexander Calder and others. Miro had a unique place between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, influencing the New York School of painters in the 1940's and '50's. Throughout his life, Miro worked in several printmaking processes, including engraving, lithography and etching, as well as the use of stencils (called pochoir). He stated that printmaking made his paintings richer, and gave him new ideas for his work. In 1967, Miro was introduced to carborundum (silicon carbide engraving) combining this technique with other printmaking processes, he was able to produce images that rivaled the original qualities of painting. He continued to explore the carborundum aquatints for the rest of his life, and in 1970 the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition specially devoted to these prints. In his later years, he spent most of his time doing etchings, doing large-scale aquatints and book illustrations. Much of his work can be found in the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York. During the 1970's he continued to receive wide acclaim, and had major exhibitions in the Musee National d'Art Moderne, and other major art institutions in Europe and America. In 1980, King Juan Carlos of Spain awarded Miro the Gold Medal for Fine Arts. In 1983, the year of his 90th birthday (and his death), there were birthday celebrations for him in New York and Barcelona.

In 1972, the Fundacio Joan Miro, Joan Miro Foundation was legally constituted in Barcelona. The museum opened in 1976, with a collection of Miro's drawings. A large selection of Miro's paintings, sculptures, textiles and prints are exhibited there, as well as exhibitions of other modern and contemporary artists. In the book Painters on Painting, Miro is quoted in an interview of 1947, saying that his favorite schools of painting are the cave painters - the primitives. He claimed at one point that since the age of cave painting, art has done nothing but degenerate. He also expressed a liking for Odilon Redon, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky for their "esprit." For artists of "pure" painting, he preferred Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and felt that both of their points of view are important. He added that the direction painting ought to take was to "rediscover the sources of human feeling." He also stated that he made no distinction between painting and poetry, and that painting is "like making love - it is an exchange of blood, a total embrace - reckless and defenseless." He said his aim was to help painting advance beyond the easel, to push its limits to create a response first of physical sensation, then a great impact on the psyche of the viewer. He considered pure abstraction to be an absurdity, and empty. Like Gaudi, Miro was fascinated with the Catalonian language he demanded in his will that his funeral be held in Catalonian style with the obituary written in the Catalan language.

Miro's images, which came from his memory, the unconscious, dreams, and transformative modernist art processes, are at once childlike, innocent and sophisticated. His two poles of existence, Catalonia and Paris, reflect this combination of rural and cosmopolitan. His forms (creatures such as people, birds, insects and animals) are whimsical and expressive, as well as inventive. The ultimate meaning of all of his abstracted realities may not be known, but it's safe to say that they all had a meaning for him, in his childhood, in his dreams, and in his life.


NORD-SUD, 1917

Nord-Sud, 1917, by Joan Miró. Photograph: Collection Maeght, Paris

Aged 24, Miró longs to leave Barcelona for Paris

Miró made this painting in 1917, when he was living in his native Barcelona and dreaming of moving to Paris. He was in the final year of his national service as a soldier Spain was not involved in the first world war, and he was frustrated that the fighting in France had put his ambitions to enlist in the Parisian avant garde on hold. After a period of depression, he had given up on the career in business that his father had planned for him, and had spent the previous four years, when not in uniform, painting full-time he had that premature, 24-year-old's sense that life was already passing him by.

The presence in his painting of the journal Nord-Sud – founded in Paris that year by the poet Guillaume Apollinaire among others – hints both at this anxiety, and at a solidarity with the ideals of freedom the magazine represented. The caged bird behind it is faced with an open door, but has not yet flown: "I must tell you," Miró wrote to his friend and fellow painter EC Ricart in 1917, "that if I have to live much longer in Barcelona I will be asphyxiated by the atmosphere – so stingy and such a backwater (artistically speaking)."

Miró was, above all, desperate, in the spirit of the moment, to be part of an -ism, or, better, to create one. Impressionism was dead, he suggested: "Down with weeping sunsets in canary yellow. Down with all that, made by crybabies!" He was already anticipating the demise of cubism, futurism and fauvism (though the latter in particular has a strong influence on his painting here). The scissors are open ready for him to cut ties with the past and present, with Catalonia (represented in the characteristic vase), and with Goethe-esque rites of passage. But his hopes of finding that new style, that new way of painting seemed to be beyond him, and to the north.

Two years later Miró still found himself maddeningly caught in this limbo, and finding new torments in his friends' departures: "Ricart must have told you," he wrote to JF Rafols in August 1919, "that he is determined to go to Paris for a few months. I am afraid that he will get a fright unless he realises that life in Paris is expensive if he does not manage to go there with a good monthly allowance. I am definitely going at the end of November. You have to go there as a fighter and not as a spectator of the fight if you want to do anything. "

When Miró eventually did make it to Paris, in 1920, he called on Picasso, whom he had never met, but whose mother was a family friend in Barcelona. Picasso looked out for him, bought a painting that Miró showed him, and helped him into the radical society he had dreamt of. Within a year, Miró's tiny studio at rue Blomet received regular visits from his new friends: the poet Paul Éluard, the playwright Antonin Artaud and the artist Tristan Tzara. Sud had found his way Nord.


Joan Miró: biography, works, exhibitions

Joan Miró was never one to play it by the book. As an artist, he lived and worked with the most notable creatives of his time and was open to the influence of any and all movements, works of art, schools and manifestos. But his work breaks away subtly from that of his contemporaries, invariably following its own unique and personal trajectory. By dint of constant creativity and his interest in all manner of artistic techniques, Miró left a legacy that is vast, versatile and full of coherence.

That most personal of all 20th century avant-garde art

Photo of Joan Miró by Man Ray (1933). From www.museoreinasofia.es

Joan Miró was never one to play it by the book. As an artist, he lived and worked with the most notable creatives of his time and was open to the influence of any and all movements, works of art, schools and manifestos. But his work breaks away subtly from that of his contemporaries, invariably following its own unique and personal trajectory. By dint of constant creativity and his interest in all manner of artistic techniques, Miró left a legacy that is vast, versatile and full of coherence. Today, he is considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century on an international scale, his influence transcending the field of plastic art to impact and shape others such as graphic design and advertising. During his ninety years of life, Miró lived and worked in Barcelona, Mallorca, Paris and New York and his deep-seated love for home, especially Barcelona and the island of Mallorca, remained at the heart of his work, infused with the other landscapes that influenced his life.

"Femme, oiseau, étolie (Hommage to Pablo Picasso)", 1966-1973. From www.museoreinasofia.es

The love of art and discovery of modernity

Joan Miró i Ferrà was born in Barcelona in 1893 as the 19th century drew to a close and the arrival of the 20th augured a worrying shift in society, culture and artistic practices. Miró's artistic vocation was probably underpinned by his family's professions - his father was a goldsmith and watchmaker while his grandfather was a Mallorcan cabinet maker. The first known drawings by Miró date from 1901 when he was just 8 years old. During his university years, he combines Business with Fine Arts studies and in 1910 starts work as an accountant at a pharmaceutical company but his artistic disposition rebelled against the stasis of number-crunching and he resigns. At around the same time, he becomes ill with typhoid fever and goes to live for the first time at Mont-Roig, in a country house owned by his parents, and the surrounding Catalan Lowlands will remain forever in his heart and mind, becoming the protagonist in many of his works.

"Sirurana, el camí” (1917). Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. From www.museoreinasofia.es

Convalescence allows Miró the time to reflect on his future and it is then that he decides to dedicate his life to painting and enrolls at the Francesc Gali School of Art where he first comes into contact with the circle of Catalan artists who will later become his friends, colleagues and art dealers. These are years of passion and youth, of painting live models and sharing studios with other artists. They are also years of discovery: Dadaist art and avant-garde Catalan and French publications spark the young Miró's interest.

The Paris Years

In the early 1920s and after his first exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries belonging to his friend and first dealer Josep Dalmau, Miró moves to Paris, where he works at Pablo Gargallo's studio. During his months off, he returns to Mont-Roig which, along with Paris, Barelona and New York, constitutes the nucleus around which his work would be structured. These were exciting years during which he meets Picasso, André Masson, Ernest Hemingway, André Breton and Paul Éluard , among other notable figures from the intellectual and artistic elites of the time. Miró works on projects above and beyond mere painting, such as his collaboration with Max Ernst on the costumes and staging for the ballet "Romeo and Juliet". It is also at this time that he creates his first " Spanish Dancers" (1928), Dadaist-inspired collages that will mark his later work. From 1930, Miró shows a growing interest in other disciplines, such as bas-relief and sculpture, which will come to feature more prominently in the ensuing years than his painting although he never abandons it altogether.

"Spanish Dancer I” (1928). Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. From www.museoreinasofia.es

Collages, objects and murals

Joan Miró working on the mural "The Reaper" (1937). From www.20minutos.es

From 1931, Miró, dividing his time between Mont-Roig, Paris and Barcelona, adds another new and fascinating location - New York, where Pierre Matisse, son of the French Fauvist painter and engraver Henri, will be his representative. During these years, Miró increasingly expands the spectrum of disciplines used for his work, creating etchings, collages, assemblages and paintings on masonite. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War forces him, along with his family, to move to Paris where he commits to the Republican cause by painting, in 1937, a large mural, "The Reaper (Catalan peasant in revolt)", for the Spanish Pavilion at that year's International Expo. The mural has since disappeared and black and white photographs are all that survived.

A passion for sculpture

"Personnage" (1974) from the exhibition Joan Miró: Sculptures, organised by the Centro Botin de Santander in 2018. From ABC

From the 1920s onwards, Miró dedicates a large part of his time to sculpting. His three-dimensional works took their inspiration from his declared passion for 'objects', so much so that he came to stockpile hundreds of them in his studio. In the 1940s, the artist cast his first bronzes and began experimenting with different materials and media. Up until the very end of his life, Miró would develop his work on sculpture and compile an enormous portfolio. In the 1960s, Alberto Giacometti advised him to paint some of his bronzes, a suggestion that resulted in some magnificent pieces, such as "Personnage" (1967). In addition to bronzes and painted figures, Miró also worked with marble and ceramic-clad concrete. His last monumental sculpture, "Dona i Ocell" (1987), is a fine example of his mastery of materials.

International art that lives on

From the 1950s onwards, Miró consolidates his international reputation and his fame begins to spread worldwide. He settles definitively in Palma de Pallorca where he undertakes his first ever ceramic pieces, in collaboration with the ceramicist Josep Llorens Artigas. He will employ this technique in enormous murals that can still be seen and admired in numerous major cities, those at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (winner of the Guggenheim International Award), Harvard University and Barcelona Airport to name but a few. 1975 sees the inauguration of the Miró Foundation in Barcelona, tasked with managing and disseminating the artist's legacy. Miró continued to work for the remainder of his life and died aged ninety in 1983, widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Mural "La Luna" (1958) in collaboration with Josep Llorens Artigas at UNESCO headquarters, Paris. From www.unesco.org

EXHIBITIONS

Hommage to Miró (1974)

This exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris was the last retrospective of his work to take place during Miró's lifetime. Over forty years later, in 2018, the Grand Palais was to inaugurate another large exhibition dedicated to the artist, "Miró, the colour of dreams", showcasing more than 150 of his works.

Miró and the object (2016)

Organized by the CaixaForum Madrid, the aim of this exhibition was to explore new facets of Miró's universe through objects: their poetics, their expressive possibilities and the "soul" that Miro was always able to find in them. The exhibition opened in Madrid after first showing at the Miró Foundation in Barcelona and covers the long artistic period from the 1920s to the 1970s. Some of the works on display (for instance "The Toys", 1924) were being seen in Spain for the first ever time.

Miró, the colour of dreams (2018-19)

As mentoned above, this exhibition at the Grand Palais was in honour of the work and figure of Joan Miró forty four years after the previous retrospective in the 1970s. As his personal friend and the exhibition's curator Jean Luis Prat commented at the time: “Miró was probably deeply affected by 50 years of history marked by two world wars. These formidable events and the questions he asked of men, of himself and of his homeland have coloured his work."

Birth of the World – MoMA (2019)

In early 2019, the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) organized a grand exhibition of the artist's work with key pieces from its magnificent collection and several exclusive loans. The exhibition centres the painting "The Birth of the World" as its focal point. The display comprised almost 60 oils on canvas, drawings on paper, engravings, illustrated books and objects.

"Miró". Jacques Dupin, 1961

Constantly revised, updated and reworked, the monograph published by Jacques Dupin in the early 1960s is essential reading for anyone wanting to know all there is to know about our Catalan artist. The biographer completed the book including Miró's work over the subsequent two remaining decades of his life, thanks to the excellent relationship he enjoyed with Miró's family and unprecedented access to work carried out by historians, curators and art experts. In 1993, another revised edition was published which is still considered, today, one of the most fundamental texts on the life and works of Joan Miró.

"Miró". Janis Mink, 1999

Taschen publishing house, the benchmark in art and artist monographs, published a 1999 biography of Joan Miró by Janis Mink. With hundreds of illustrations and magnificent attention to detail, the book covers the artist's trajectory of almost 70 years - from his Surrealist-style automatic drawings to the assemblage-sculptures he constructed from objects. The book is careful to respect Miró's idiosyncrasies as an unclassifiable artist and figure who resisted being pidgeonholed into categories, trends or schools.

“Joan Miró. The Road To Art”. Pilar Cabañas, 2013

Much has been written about Joan Miró's life and work but even so, in 2013, Pilar Cabañas managed to shine a whole new light on the artist's work and write a book that is vital for understanding it. Basing her point of view on the principles that govern Miró's work, the author provides us with the guidelines for understanding the man as a human being and as an artist. Cabañas delves into issues such as what drives his creativity, the reasoning behind his art and the exploration of sadness, loneliness and pain in his work, among others. With Miró as a starting point, Cabañas guides us through art in general as a path to transcendence and the essence of humanity. The text is enriched by the participation of Ignacio Llamas who designed the edition.


Contents

Born into a family of a goldsmith and a watchmaker, Miró grew up in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood of Barcelona. [6] The Miró surname indicates possible Jewish roots (in terms of marrano or converso Iberian Jews who converted to Christianity). [7] [8] His father was Miquel Miró Adzerias and his mother was Dolors Ferrà. [9] He began drawing classes at the age of seven at a private school at Carrer del Regomir 13, a medieval mansion. To the dismay of his father, he enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotja in 1907. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc [10] and he had his first solo show in 1918 at the Galeries Dalmau, [11] where his work was ridiculed and defaced. [12] Inspired by Fauve and Cubist exhibitions in Barcelona and abroad, Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris, but continued to spend his summers in Catalonia. [6] [13] [14] [15]

Career Edit

Miró initially went to business school as well as art school. He began his working career as a clerk when he was a teenager, although he abandoned the business world completely for art after suffering a nervous breakdown. [18] His early art, like that of the similarly influenced Fauves and Cubists, was inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. The resemblance of Miró's work to that of the intermediate generation of the avant-garde has led scholars to dub this period his Catalan Fauvist period. [19]

A few years after Miró's 1918 Barcelona solo exhibition, [11] he settled in Paris where he finished a number of paintings that he had begun on his parents' summer home and farm in Mont-roig del Camp. One such painting, The Farm, showed a transition to a more individual style of painting and certain nationalistic qualities. Ernest Hemingway, who later purchased the piece, compared the artistic accomplishment to James Joyce's Ulysses and described it by saying, "It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there. No one else has been able to paint these two very opposing things." [20] Miró annually returned to Mont-roig and developed a symbolism and nationalism that would stick with him throughout his career. Two of Miró's first works classified as Surrealist, Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) and The Tilled Field, [21] employ the symbolic language that was to dominate the art of the next decade. [22]

Josep Dalmau arranged Miró's first Parisian solo exhibition, at Galerie la Licorne in 1921. [13] [23] [24]

In 1924, Miró joined the Surrealist group. The already symbolic and poetic nature of Miró's work, as well as the dualities and contradictions inherent to it, fit well within the context of dream-like automatism espoused by the group. Much of Miró's work lost the cluttered chaotic lack of focus that had defined his work thus far, and he experimented with collage and the process of painting within his work so as to reject the framing that traditional painting provided. This antagonistic attitude towards painting manifested itself when Miró referred to his work in 1924 ambiguously as "x" in a letter to poet friend Michel Leiris. [25] The paintings that came out of this period were eventually dubbed Miró's dream paintings.

Miró did not completely abandon subject matter, though. Despite the Surrealist automatic techniques that he employed extensively in the 1920s, sketches show that his work was often the result of a methodical process. Miró's work rarely dipped into non-objectivity, maintaining a symbolic, schematic language. This was perhaps most prominent in the repeated Head of a Catalan Peasant series of 1924 to 1925. In 1926, he collaborated with Max Ernst on designs for ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. With Miró's help, Ernst pioneered the technique of grattage, in which one trowels pigment onto a canvas then scrapes it away. [26] [ citation needed ]

Miró returned to a more representational form of painting with The Dutch Interiors of 1928. Crafted after works by Hendrik Martenszoon Sorgh and Jan Steen seen as postcard reproductions, the paintings reveal the influence of a trip to Holland taken by the artist. [27] These paintings share more in common with Tilled Field or Harlequin's Carnival than with the minimalistic dream paintings produced a few years earlier.

Miró married Pilar Juncosa in Palma (Majorca) on 12 October 1929. Their daughter, María Dolores Miró, was born on 17 July 1930. In 1931, Pierre Matisse opened an art gallery in New York City. The Pierre Matisse Gallery (which existed until Matisse's death in 1989) became an influential part of the Modern art movement in America. From the outset Matisse represented Joan Miró and introduced his work to the United States market by frequently exhibiting Miró's work in New York. [28] [29]

Until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Miró habitually returned to Spain in the summers. Once the war began, he was unable to return home. Unlike many of his surrealist contemporaries, Miró had previously preferred to stay away from explicitly political commentary in his work. Though a sense of (Catalan) nationalism pervaded his earliest surreal landscapes and Head of a Catalan Peasant, it was not until Spain's Republican government commissioned him to paint the mural The Reaper, for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exhibition, that Miró's work took on a politically charged meaning. [30]

In 1939, with Germany's invasion of France looming, Miró relocated to Varengeville in Normandy, and on 20 May of the following year, as Germans invaded Paris, he narrowly fled to Spain (now controlled by Francisco Franco) for the duration of the Vichy Regime's rule. [31] In Varengeville, Palma, and Mont-roig, between 1940 and 1941, Miró created the twenty-three gouache series Constellations. Revolving around celestial symbolism, Constellations earned the artist praise from André Breton, who seventeen years later wrote a series of poems, named after and inspired by Miró's series. [32] Features of this work revealed a shifting focus to the subjects of women, birds, and the moon, which would dominate his iconography for much of the rest of his career.

Shuzo Takiguchi published the first monograph on Miró in 1940. In 1948–49 Miró lived in Barcelona and made frequent visits to Paris to work on printing techniques at the Mourlot Studios and the Atelier Lacourière. He developed a close relationship with Fernand Mourlot and that resulted in the production of over one thousand different lithographic editions.

In 1959, André Breton asked Miró to represent Spain in The Homage to Surrealism exhibition alongside Enrique Tábara, Salvador Dalí, and Eugenio Granell. Miró created a series of sculptures and ceramics for the garden of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, which was completed in 1964.

In 1974, Miró created a tapestry for the World Trade Center in New York City together with the Catalan artist Josep Royo. He had initially refused to do a tapestry, then he learned the craft from Royo and the two artists produced several works together. His World Trade Center Tapestry was displayed at the building [33] and was one of the most expensive works of art lost during the September 11 attacks. [34] [35]

In 1977, Miró and Royo finished a tapestry to be exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. [36] [37]

In 1981, Miró's The Sun, the Moon and One Star—later renamed Miró's Chicago—was unveiled. This large, mixed media sculpture is situated outdoors in the downtown Loop area of Chicago, across the street from another large public sculpture, the Chicago Picasso. Miró had created a bronze model of The Sun, the Moon and One Star in 1967. The maquette now resides in the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Late life and death Edit

In 1979 Miró received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Barcelona. The artist, who suffered from heart failure, died in his home in Palma (Majorca) on 25 December 1983. [38] He was later interred in the Montjuïc Cemetery in Barcelona.

Mental health Edit

It has been established through the analysis of personal texts written by Joan Miró that he has experienced multiple episodes of depression throughout his life. [39] He experienced his first depression when he was 18 in 1911. [40] Much of the literature refers to this as if it was a small setback in his life, while it appeared to be much more than that. [41] Miro himself stated: ‘'I was demoralized and suffered from a serious depression. I fell really ill, and stayed three months in bed’’. [42]

There is a clear connection between his mental health and his paintings, since he used painting as a way of dealing with his episodes of depression. It supposedly even made him more calm and his thoughts less dark. Joan Miró said that without painting he became ‘‘very depressed, gloomy and I get ‘black ideas’, and I do not know what to do with myself’’. [43]

The influence of his mental state is very well visible in his painting Carnival of the Harlequin. He tried to paint the chaos he experienced in his mind, the desperation of wanting to leave that chaos behind and the pain created because of that. Miró painted the symbol of the ladder here which is visible in multiple other paintings after this paining as well. It is supposed to symbolize escaping. [44]

The relation between creativity and mental illness is very well studied. [45] Creative people have higher chances of suffering from a manic depressive illness or schizophrenia, as well as higher chance to transmit this genetically. [46] Even though we know Miró suffered from episodic depression, it is uncertain whether he also experienced manic episodes, which is often referred to as bipolar disorder. [47]

Early fauvist Edit

His early modernist works include Portrait of Vincent Nubiola (1917), Siurana (the path), Nord-Sud (1917) and Painting of Toledo. These works show the influence of Cézanne, and fill the canvas with a colorful surface and a more painterly treatment than the hard-edge style of most of his later works. In Nord-Sud, the literary newspaper of that name appears in the still life, a compositional device common in cubist compositions, but also a reference to the literary and avant-garde interests of the painter. [48]

Magical Realism Edit

Starting in 1920, Miró developed a very precise style, picking out every element in isolation and detail and arranging them in deliberate composition. These works, including House with Palm Tree (1918), Nude with a Mirror (1919), Horse, Pipe and Red Flower (1920), and The Table – Still Life with Rabbit (1920), show the clear influence of Cubism, although in a restrained way, being applied to only a portion of the subject. For example, The Farmer's Wife (1922–23), is realistic, but some sections are stylized or deformed, such as the treatment of the woman's feet, which are enlarged and flattened. [49]

The culmination of this style was The Farm (1921–22). The rural Catalan scene it depicts is augmented by an avant-garde French newspaper in the center, showing Miró sees this work transformed by the Modernist theories he had been exposed to in Paris. The concentration on each element as equally important was a key step towards generating a pictorial sign for each element. The background is rendered in flat or patterned in simple areas, highlighting the separation of figure and ground, which would become important in his mature style.

Miró made many attempts to promote this work, but his surrealist colleagues found it too realistic and apparently conventional, and so he soon turned to a more explicitly surrealist approach. [50]

Early surrealism Edit

In 1922, Miró explored abstracted, strongly coloured surrealism in at least one painting. [51] From the summer of 1923 in Mont-roig, Miró began a key set of paintings where abstracted pictorial signs, rather than the realistic representations used in The Farm, are predominant. In The Tilled Field, Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) and Pastoral (1923–24), these flat shapes and lines (mostly black or strongly coloured) suggest the subjects, sometimes quite cryptically. For Catalan Landscape (The Hunter), Miró represents the hunter with a combination of signs: a triangle for the head, curved lines for the moustache, angular lines for the body. So encoded is this work that at a later time Miró provided a precise explanation of the signs used. [52]

Surrealist pictorial language Edit

Through the mid-1920s Miró developed the pictorial sign language which would be central throughout the rest of his career. In Harlequin's Carnival (1924–25), there is a clear continuation of the line begun with The Tilled Field. But in subsequent works, such as The Happiness of Loving My Brunette (1925) and Painting (Fratellini) (1927), there are far fewer foreground figures, and those that remain are simplified.

Soon after Miró also began his Spanish Dancer series of works. These simple collages, were like a conceptual counterpoint to his paintings. In Spanish Dancer (1928) he combines a cork, a feather and a hatpin onto a blank sheet of paper. [50]

Livres d'Artiste Edit

Miró created over 250 illustrated books. [53] These were known as "Livres d' Artiste." One such work was published in 1974, at the urging of the widow of the French poet Robert Desnos, titled Les pénalités de l'enfer ou les nouvelles Hébrides ("The Penalties of Hell or The New Hebrides"). It was a set of 25 lithographs, five in black, and the others in colors.

In 2006 the book was displayed in "Joan Miró, Illustrated Books" at the Vero Beach Museum of Art. One critic said it is "an especially powerful set, not only for the rich imagery but also for the story behind the book's creation. The lithographs are long, narrow verticals, and while they feature Miró's familiar shapes, there's an unusual emphasis on texture." The critic continued, "I was instantly attracted to these four prints, to an emotional lushness, that's in contrast with the cool surfaces of so much of Miró's work. Their poignancy is even greater, I think, when you read how they came to be. The artist met and became friends with Desnos, perhaps the most beloved and influential surrealist writer, in 1925, and before long, they made plans to collaborate on a livre d'artiste. Those plans were put on hold because of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Desnos' bold criticism of the latter led to his imprisonment in Auschwitz, and he died at age 45 shortly after his release in 1945. Nearly three decades later, at the suggestion of Desnos' widow, Miró set out to illustrate the poet's manuscript. It was his first work in prose, which was written in Morocco in 1922 but remained unpublished until this posthumous collaboration." [ This quote needs a citation ]

In Paris, under the influence of poets and writers, he developed his unique style: organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line. Generally thought of as a Surrealist because of his interest in automatism and the use of sexual symbols (for example, ovoids with wavy lines emanating from them), Miró's style was influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism and Dada, [18] yet he rejected membership in any artistic movement in the interwar European years. André Breton described him as "the most Surrealist of us all." Miró confessed to creating one of his most famous works, Harlequin's Carnival, under similar circumstances:

How did I think up my drawings and my ideas for painting? Well I'd come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I'd go to bed, and sometimes I hadn't any supper. I saw things, and I jotted them down in a notebook. I saw shapes on the ceiling. [54]

Miró's surrealist origins evolved out of "repression" much like all Spanish surrealist and magic realist work, especially because of his Catalan ethnicity, which was subject to special persecution by the Franco regime. Also, Joan Miró was well aware of Haitian Voodoo art and Cuban Santería religion through his travels before going into exile. This led to his signature style of art making. [ citation needed ]

Experimental style Edit

Joan Miró was among the first artists to develop automatic drawing as a way to undo previous established techniques in painting, and thus, with André Masson, represented the beginning of Surrealism as an art movement. However, Miró chose not to become an official member of the Surrealists to be free to experiment with other artistic styles without compromising his position within the group. He pursued his own interests in the art world, ranging from automatic drawing and surrealism, to expressionism, Lyrical Abstraction, and Color Field painting. Four-dimensional painting was a theoretical type of painting Miró proposed in which painting would transcend its two-dimensionality and even the three-dimensionality of sculpture. [ citation needed ] [55]

Miró's oft-quoted interest in the assassination of painting is derived from a dislike of bourgeois art, which he believed was used as a way to promote propaganda and cultural identity among the wealthy. Specifically, Miró responded to Cubism in this way, which by the time of his quote had become an established art form in France. He is quoted as saying "I will break their guitar," referring to Picasso's paintings, with the intent to attack the popularity and appropriation of Picasso's art by politics. [56]

The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I'm overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains – everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me. —Joan Miró, 1958, quoted in Twentieth-Century Artists on Art

In an interview with biographer Walter Erben, Miró expressed his dislike for art critics, saying, they "are more concerned with being philosophers than anything else. They form a preconceived opinion, then they look at the work of art. Painting merely serves as a cloak in which to wrap their emaciated philosophical systems." [57]

In the final decades of his life Miró accelerated his work in different media, producing hundreds of ceramics, including the Wall of the Moon and Wall of the Sun at the UNESCO building in Paris. He also made temporary window paintings (on glass) for an exhibit. In the last years of his life Miró wrote his most radical and least known ideas, exploring the possibilities of gas sculpture and four-dimensional painting.

Throughout the 1960s, Miró was a featured artist in many salon shows assembled by the Maeght Foundation that also included works by Marc Chagall, Giacometti, Brach, Cesar, Ubac, and Tal-Coat.

The large retrospectives devoted to Miró in his old age in towns such as New York (1972), London (1972), Saint-Paul-de-Vence (1973) and Paris (1974) were a good indication of the international acclaim that had grown steadily over the previous half-century further major retrospectives took place posthumously. Political changes in his native country led in 1978 to the first full exhibition of his painting and graphic work, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. In 1993, the year of the hundredth anniversary of his birth, several exhibitions were held, among which the most prominent were those held in the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and the Galerie Lelong, Paris. [58] In 2011, another retrospective was mounted by the Tate Modern, London, and travelled to Fundació Joan Miró and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. Joan Miró, Printmaking, Fundación Joan Miró (2013). And two exhibitions in 2014, Miró: From Earth to Sky at Albertina Museum, and Masterpieces from the Kunsthaus Zürich, National Art Center, Tokyo.

Exhibitions entitled Joan Miró: Instinct & Imagination and "Miró: The Experience of Seeing" were held at the Denver Art Museum from 22 March – 28 June 2015 and at the McNay Art Museum from 30 September 2015 – 10 January 2016 (respectively), showing works made by Miró between 1963 and 1981, on loan from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. [59] [60] [61] [62] [63]

In Spring 2019, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, launched Joan Miró: Birth of the World. [64] Running until July 2019, the exhibit showcases 60 pieces of work from the inception of Miró's career, and including the influence of the World Wars. The exhibit features 60-foot canvasses as well as smaller 8-foot paintings, and the influences range from cubism to abstraction. [65]

Miró has been a significant influence on late 20th-century art, in particular the American abstract expressionist artists that include: Motherwell, Calder, Gorky, Pollock, Matta and Rothko, while his lyrical abstractions [66] and color field paintings were precursors of that style by artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Olitski and Louis and others. [67] His work has also influenced modern designers, including Paul Rand [68] and Lucienne Day, [69] [ self-published source? ] and influenced recent painters such as Julian Hatton. [70]

One of Man Ray's 1930s photographs, Miró with Rope, depicts the painter with an arranged rope pinned to a wall, and was published in the single-issue surrealist work Minotaure.

In 2002, American percussionist/composer Bobby Previte released the album The 23 Constellations of Joan Miró on Tzadik Records. Inspired by Miró's Constellations series, Previte composed a series of short pieces (none longer than about 3 minutes) to parallel the small size of Miró's paintings. Privete's compositions for an ensemble of up to ten musicians was described by critics as "unconventionally light, ethereal, and dreamlike". [71]

In 1954 he was given the Venice Biennale print making prize, in 1958 the Guggenheim International Award. [18] [72]

In 1981, the Palma City Council (Majorca) established the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca, housed in the four studios that Miró had donated for the purpose. [73]

In October 2018, the Grand Palais in Paris opened the largest retrospective devoted to the artist until this date. The exhibition included nearly 150 works and was curated by Jean Louis Prat. [74]

Today, Miró's paintings sell for between US$250,000 and US$26 million US$17 million at a U.S. auction for the La Caresse des étoiles (1938) on 6 May 2008, at the time the highest amount paid for one of his works. [75] In 2012, Painting-Poem ("le corps de ma brune puisque je l'aime comme ma chatte habillée en vert salade comme de la grêle c'est pareil") (1925) was sold at Christie's London for $26.6 million. [76] Later that year at Sotheby's in London, Peinture (Etoile Bleue) (1927) brought nearly 23.6 million pounds with fees, more than twice what it had sold for at a Paris auction in 2007 and a record price for the artist at auction. [77] [78] On 21 June 2017, the work Femme et Oiseaux (1940), one of his Constellations, sold at Sotheby's London for 24,571,250 GBP. [79]

"Les Fusains": 22, rue Tourlaque, 18th arrondissement of Paris where Miró settled in 1927.


JOAN MIRÓ

Joan Miró i Ferrà (April 20, 1893 – December 25, 1983) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. Although his work is routinely associated with Surrealism, Miró did not completely abandon subject matter in his work. Despite the Surrealist automatic techniques that he employed extensively, sketches from his studio work indicate that his finished paintings were often the result of a methodical process. Miró’s work rarely ever truly dipped into non-objectivity. His work is rife with symbolic, schematic artistic language. He did share a particular commonality with Surrealists, however Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society. He famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favor of upsetting the visual elements of classical styles of painting.

Miro left Paris for Varengeville-sur-Mer in Normandy in 1939, and it was here an important new body of work was formed – a series of twenty-three gouaches, which became known as the Constellations. They are amongst the artist’s most intricately constructed works, exploring ideas linked to regenerative processes located within nature. Heavily influenced by the turmoil of World War II, his work seems to reflect upon the fragile, transitory quality of existence. Each Constellation piece depicts a moment in time, a microcosm of life: captured in weightless, suspended animation. In 1945, the Constellations were smuggled out of Europe for a Pierre Matisse exhibit in NYC. Andre Breton was immediately inspired by the series and wrote what would become his final poetic works. In 1959, under the direction of pochoir master Daniel Jacomet, 22 of the original 23 gouache Constellations were made into 350 pochoir suites.

The Constellations directly inspired the emerging American Abstract Expressionist painters who, at the time, were seeking to escape from the constraints of Social Realism and Regionalism. Furthermore, Miro's influence on modern art is undeniable. Artistic masters such as Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Roberto Matta, and Mark Rothko cite him as inspirational. It was perhaps the American painter, Robert Motherwell, who most vividly expressed his views on the importance of Miró and his work: “I like everything about Miró – his clear-eyed face, his modesty, his ironically-edged reticence as a person, his constant hard work, his Mediterranean sensibility, and other qualities that manifest themselves in a continually growing body of work that for me, is the most moving and beautiful now being made in Europe. A sensitive balance between nature and man’s work, almost lost in contemporary art, saturates Miró’s art, so that his work, so original that hardly anyone has any conception of how original, immediately strikes us to the depths”


Joan Miro Biography

The painter, Joan Miró, was born in Barcelona in 1893 and died in Mallorca in 1983. He produced works in a variety of different styles and using a wide range of materials but the majority of them had a surrealist flavour. This is how he is best remembered although he preferred to think of his works as individualistic and not necessarily falling into any particular category.

He showed an early passion for art and attended drawing classes while he was at primary school. In 1907 he enrolled at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (the Llotja) in Barcelona and studied there until 1910. In 1912 Miró was recovering from a bout of Typhoid and decided that he wanted to follow his love of painting and not a career in accounting that he had been attempting to pursue. He spent 3 years at a school of art run by Francesc Galí, and studied life art at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc. His first one man exhibition was in 1918 and his works showed a number of influences. These included the vibrant colours of Fauvism, Cubist shapes, Catalan art and Roman frescos.

Miró’s Woman, Bird, Star (Homage to Pablo Picasso)

In 1920 he visited Paris for the first time, and met Picasso. This is probably one of the main reasons why his style changed after this point and Miró began to focus on more surreal paintings. He decided to move to Paris and held his first solo exhibition there in 1921. He divided his time between Spain and France and met, and worked alongside, many of the surrealist artists and poets of the time. Ernest Hemingway was among Miró’s customers during this time. He bought a painting that mixed cubism with surrealism, ‘The Farm’. In 1926 Miró and his friend, Max Ernst, were commissioned to design the sets and costumes for the ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’, performed in Paris by the Ballets Russes.

Around this time Miró also started to become interested in object collages. The first he produced was the ‘Spanish Dancer’. He moved away from painting for a while and concentrated on sculptures. However, he also experimented with a wide variety of other artistic forms including lithography, engraving, and painting over copper. He married in 1929, and his daughter was born the following year. Miró then decided to spend more time in Spain until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War forced him to move his family back to Paris in 1936. They remained there until 1940 when they moved back to Spain. Miró continued to learn about, and experiment with, various materials and types of art, but it was his ceramic work that he concentrated on.

Miró’s The Farm

In the late 1950s Miró began to produce commissioned works particularly murals and large outdoor sculptures for locations around the world. In 1972 a building to house the Fundació Joan Miró, Centre d’Estudis d’Art Contemporani (The Joan Miró Foundation, Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art) was commissioned. It opened to the public in 1975 and it houses the largest collection of Miró’s works. This is by far the biggest collection in the world not surprisingly because Miró himself donated the vast majority of pieces before he died. It includes 240 paintings, 175 sculptures, 9 textiles, 4 ceramics, the almost complete graphic works, and around 8,000 drawings. Other examples of Miró’s work can be found at museums and locations around the world.


Joan Miró - Biography and Legacy

Joan Miró was born in Spain in 1893 to a family of craftsmen. His father Miguel was a watchmaker and goldsmith, while his mother was the daughter of a cabinetmaker. Perhaps in keeping with his family's artistic trade, Miró exhibited a strong love of drawing at an early age not particularly inclined toward academics, he said he was "a very poor student. quiet, rather taciturn, and a dreamer."

In 1907 when he was fourteen, Miró began studying landscape and decorative art at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (the Llotja) in Barcelona. At the same time, at the behest of his parents who wanted him to pursue a more practical career, he attended the School of Commerce. He began working as a clerk, and because of the constant demands of his studies, he experienced what has been characterized as a nervous breakdown, followed by a severe case of typhoid fever. His family bought Montroig, a farm in the countryside outside of Barcelona, as a place where Miró could recover, and as he convalesced, he devoted himself fully to making art and abandoned his commercial pursuits.

Early Training

In 1912, Miró enrolled in an art academy in Barcelona where he learned about modern art movements and contemporary Catalan poets. Poetry was to have a lifelong influence on him, as he said later, "I make no distinction between painting and poetry," seeing his work as implicitly metaphoric, evoking resemblance to objective reality, while remaining outside of it. As part of his studies, his teacher Francisco Galí had the young artist draw by touch, sometimes while blindfolded, to encourage a spatial understanding of objects while relying upon intuition. Miró also associated with the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc, an artistic group that included renowned architect Antoni Gaudí among its members. Between 1912 and 1920, Miró painted still-lifes, portraits, nudes, and landscapes, in a style, dubbed Catalan Fauvism by some scholars. Influenced by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and the bold, bright colors of the French Fauve painters, he also drew upon his Catalan roots, calling himself "an international Catalan."

Mature Period

Miró's first solo show in Barcelona in 1918 was a complete disaster, his works ridiculed by both critics and the public, with not a single work sold. Utterly disappointed and seeking a more invigorating and receptive artistic world, he went to Paris in 1920, where he met a number of artists, including Max Jacob , Pablo Picasso, André Masson, and Tristan Tzara. However, it wasn't until three and a half months later when he went home to the Montroig farm that he was able to paint, saying, "I immediately burst into painting the way children burst into tears." For the following decade, to maintain the balance between his Catalan inspiration and the Parisian art world, he subsequently began living in Paris for part of the year, while returning to Montroig every summer, as he said, "Paris and the countryside until I die." Due to financial hardship, his life in Paris was difficult at first. Later describing those lean, early years, he quipped, "How did I think up my drawings and my ideas for painting? Well, I'd come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I'd go to bed, and sometimes I hadn't had any supper." Yet, it seems that physical deprivation enlivened the young Miró's imagination. "I saw things," he explained, "and I jotted them down in a notebook. I saw shapes on the ceiling."

He had his first solo show in Paris in 1921 and exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in 1922, while associating with many of the leading Dada and Surrealist artists. He became friends with the Surrealist writer and leader, André Breton, forming a relationship that lasted for many years. The Surrealists were most active in Paris during the 1920s, having formally joined forces in 1924 with the publication of their Surrealist Manifesto. Their members, led by Breton, promoted "pure psychic automatism," a concept for which Miró felt an affinity from his own history of unconscious drawing through touch and intuition. He participated in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925, though, nonetheless, as art historian Stanley Meisler noted, he "steadfastly refused to sign any Surrealist manifesto, especially the ones extolling 'psychic automatism.' He simply refused to believe that any painting could come full-blown out of a dream." His increasingly biomorphic, enigmatic, and innovative art, as seen in the Harlequin's Carnival (1924-25), a work he said he painted in a "hallucination of hunger," was also carefully planned, first composed on a grid background. Simultaneously, he also explored near abstract treatments, as he simplified his biomorphic forms to schematic shapes, pictorial signs, and visual gestures, as seen in his Painting (1927), where three ambiguous shapes and schematic lines are depicted against an empty blue background.

Miró married Pilar Juncosa in 1929, and their only child Dolores was born in 1931. As his art began to be exhibited and sold in both France and the United States, his career began to flourish, though any economic stability was cut short by the effects of the global depression. In 1932, no longer able to support his family in Paris, they moved to Barcelona. Years of disruption followed, as in 1936 while visiting Paris he was trapped with his family, unable to return to Spain where the civil war had erupted. In 1939 he fled to Normandy as the German invasion threatened and in 1941 to Mallorca, where he said, "I was very pessimistic. I felt that everything was lost." He turned to painting small works on paper, which he titled Constellations (1939-41), of which he said, "When I was painting the Constellations I had the genuine feeling that I was working in secret. But it was a liberation for me. I ceased thinking about all the tragedy around me."

Ironically, while he was hiding in Mallorca, using his wife's last name to escape the attention of Franco's government, Miró was given his first retrospective at New York City's Museum of Modern Art to great acclaim. When, immediately following the end of the war, Constellations was also shown in New York, his renown continued to grow in America, prompting a large-scale mural commission in Cincinnati in 1947. Miró's simplified forms and his life-long impulse toward experimentation inspired the generation of American Abstract Expressionists whose emphasis on non-representational art signaled a major shift in artistic production in the both the U.S. and in Europe. Yet, despite the acclaim for his paintings, he continued to explore new media, turning to ceramics, as he collaborated with Joseph Llorens Artigas, and to sculpture in the mid-1940s.

In the 1950s, Miró again began dividing his time between Spain and France. A large exhibition of his works was held at the Gallerie Maeght in Paris and subsequently at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1953. However, from 1954-58 he worked almost exclusively on printmaking and ceramics, including two ceramic wall murals for the UNESCO building in Paris. In 1959, he, along with Salvador Dalí, Enrique Tabara, and Eugenio Granell participated in Homage to Surrealism, an exhibition in Spain organized by André Breton. The 1960s were a prolific and adventurous time for Miró as he painted the large abstract triptych Bleu (1961) and worked intensely in sculpture, in some instances revisiting and reinterpreting some of his older works. While he never altered the essence of his style, his later work is recognized as more mature, distilled, and refined in terms of form.

Late Period and Death

As Miró aged, he continued to receive many accolades and public commissions. He continued to head in new directions, saying, "It's the young people who interest me, and not the old dodos. If I go on working, it's for the year 2000, and for the people of tomorrow." In 1974, he was commissioned to create a tapestry for New York's World Trade Center, demonstrating his achievements as an internationally renowned artist as well as his place in popular culture. He received an honorary degree from the University of Barcelona in 1979. Miró died at his home in 1983, a year after completing Woman and Bird, a grand public sculpture for the city of Barcelona. The work was, in a sense, the culmination of a prolific career, one so profoundly integral to the development of modern art.

The Legacy of Joan Miró

Miró once famously stated, "I want to assassinate painting." Along with other Dada and Surrealist artists like Jean Arp and Yves Tanguy, he explored the possibility of creating an entirely new visual vocabulary for art that could exist outside of the objective world, while not divorced from it. His unique artistic idiom often used biomorphic forms that remained within the bounds of objectivity, while simultaneously being forms of pure invention. Expressive and imbued with meaning through their juxtaposition with other forms and the artist's use of color, they became increasingly abstract pictorial signs. His explorations of all media and innovative techniques gave his work an edge - simultaneously, new, yet instantly recognizable as Miró.

What art critic Ryan Steadman called Miró's "personal form of abstraction" was a defining influence on his longtime close friend Alexander Calder and on the Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, and William Baziotes, as well as the Color Field painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. Helen Frankenthaler also credited Miró's influence upon the development of her Post-Painterly Abstraction style. More recently, his work has influenced the designers Paul Rand, Lucienne Day, and Julian Hatton, as well as contemporary artists Josh Smith and Chris Martin.

To this day, Miró's freewheeling artistic expression continues to be a generating spark for evolving artists and art movements.


Critical Success

True to the character she developed during her long tenure as a champion athlete, Mitchell exhibited a toughness that her father would have disparaged as un-ladylike, but which may have been essential to the milieu in which she operated. Mitchell drank, smoked, swore, and hung around in bars, and while not befitting a high-society lady in Chicago, this attitude served Mitchell well: she was one of a handful of female members of the Eighth Street Club, an iconic grouping of downtown artists in 1950s New York.

The first hint of critical success came in 1957, when Mitchell was featured in ArtNews’s “. Paints a Picture” column. “Mitchell Paints a Picture,” written by prominent critic Irving Sandler, profiled the artist for the major magazine.

In 1961, Russell Mitchell Gallery staged the first major exhibition of Mitchell’s work, and in 1972 she was recognized with her first major museum show, at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. Soon after, in 1974, she was given a show at New York’s Whitney Museum, thus cementing her legacy.

The last decade of Mitchell’s life saw continued critical success. A life-long smoker, Joan Mitchell died of lung cancer in Paris at the age of 67 in 1992.


Important Art by Joan Miró

The Farm (1920-21)

A dramatically tilted picture plane presents a view of the artist's masia or "family farm," thronging with animals, farm implements, plants, and evidence of human activity. Miró explained, "The Farm was a résumé of my entire life in the country. I wanted to put everything I loved about the country into that canvas - from a huge tree to a tiny snail." The intensity of vision and almost maniacal attention to detail gives the work the quality of an eidetic memory, reconfigured in a dream, and prefigures his later Surrealist work.

As art critic Laura Cummings wrote, "every entity is given its own autonomous space in the picture, separately praised but connected by rhyming shapes," due to the "quasi-cubist space, tilted upright and presumably because Miró is celebrating the thriving upward growth of home."

The work illustrates important innovations signature to the artist as it includes various abstracted elements, like the black circle where the eucalyptus tree rises in the center, symbols like the two ladders, one with a goat standing on top, and the other with a rooster. Furthermore, as Cummings notes, in "his new way of painting. objects have a double life as letters - the E of a crate, the A of a ladder, the O of wheel, pail and sun - and everything is simultaneously inside the scene and written on its surface. The Farm is both picture and poem."

The artist considered this work among his most important, marking a turning point. While reflecting a number of influences, including Catalan folk art, a Romanesque sense of hierarchy where scale reflects importance, and a Cubist vocabulary, the work resisted settling into a style, exemplifying the artist's restless and iconoclastic approach.

After completing the work, Miró struggled to find a buyer in a Parisian modern art market that preferred Cubism. One dealer suggested cutting it into several smaller paintings for ease of sale. Fortunately, the artist had become friends with the writer Ernest Hemingway, then a struggling unknown, and, after hours of working the two would meet for boxing sessions to unwind. Hemingway was determined to buy The Farm and, after borrowing money and working as a grocery clerk, was able to purchase it and kept it throughout his life. As he wrote, "I would not trade it for any picture in the world. It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there."

Harlequin's Carnival (1924-25)

This painting depicts a festive and crowded scene where quixotic biomorphs seem to be caught up in a lively celebration. Every form both evokes resemblances and refuses them, as at center left, the harlequin, identified by the black and white checks of the costume of the Italian commedia dell'arte's stock figure, has a body shaped like a distorted guitar. The cat, at lower right, stands up on its hind legs, as if dancing, its "arms" held out to the scene, while its red and yellow face turns to look at the viewer. A yellow and black fish lies on the table, an ear and an eye grow out of the ladder on the left, music notes appear on the wall, black and white snakelike tubes cross in the center, and many of the forms are connected by thin scrolling lines, as the black and yellow creature dancing in the lower center grasps a thread that extends to the cat's whiskers. The viewer is caught up in this imagined world, intrigued by the dissonance between identification and meaning.

An early example of the artist's turn toward Surrealism, this work also pioneered his use of biomorphic forms, as most of the objects evoke living organisms. He explained some of the painting's symbolic meaning, saying that the black triangle symbolized the Eiffel Tower and the ladder stood for both elevation and evasion. Yet the merging and melding forms overturn the certainties of the conscious world, including those of art, as the artist said, "I'm only interested in anonymous art, the kind that springs from the collective unconscious." Miró never wanted to settle into a particular artistic style and strove to overturn aesthetic hierarchies. In this work he created his own pictorial idiom. As art critic Laura Cummings wrote, "When Miró died in 1983, at the age of 90, he had long been cherished as the last of the modernist stars. His pictorial language was singular, instantly recognizable and - quite rightly - no longer perceived as some Catalan dialect of Surrealism."

Dog Barking at the Moon (1926)

In a spare landscape that is both Surrealistic and humorously cartoonish, divided between rich chocolate earth and a black night sky, a whimsically distorted dog, depicted in bright colors, barks up at the moon above him. On the left, a ladder, depicted in white and yellow with red rungs, extends into the sky. The distortions of the moon and the dog, along with the improbability of the ladder, create a sense of play where everything both is and is not what it seems, while the white, red, and yellow, used for the four forms, creates some mysterious sense of connection between them.

As art critic Laura Cummings wrote, "On the ground, a multicoloured critter with something like paws and jaws barks at the moon with all the energy implicit in its tightly sprung form. The moon is not quite immune to this absurd display: it has a painted heart. But it also wears a satirical red nose." Yet the vast space, filled by the dark background, also evokes a sense of deep loneliness and mystery, as art critic Judith Flanders wrote, "At his best, in works like Dog Barking at the Moon, he created a mysteriously floating, unanchored world where his standard lexicon of symbols - here the ladder, symbolising not only individuality and escape, but also futility and an exit into the void of death - become potent."

In the period preceding this work, the artist had begun sometimes including words in his paintings, creating what he called "painting poems." The original sketch included the moon's response to the dog in Catalan, "You know, I don't give a damn." Though Miró left the text out of the painting, a feeling of implicit communication remains, created by the dog's insistence, its body lifting with its unheard voice, and by the moon, visually, seeming to turn away in rejection. As Cummings noted, the work famous "as a work of surrealism. has equally been interpreted a personal manifesto. Here is the young artist as a pup, trying to find his voice in the international avant-garde. The beautiful ladder must therefore be his art, by which he will ascend."


Watch the video: Spanish Master Joan Miró Painted the Subconscious (May 2022).