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20th century Joan Miro

Published on April 20th, 2017 | by Zuzanna Stanska

9 Things You Must Know About Joan Miro

Joan Miro was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. His work has been interpreted as Surrealism but it’s difficult to put his works in any box. It’s a great time to remind you of his life as today it’s his birthday.

1. He was Catalan

The Catalan Landscape (The Hunter), 1923-4 by Joan Miro. Photograph: Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011, MoMA New York

The Catalan Landscape (The Hunter), 1923-4 by Joan Miro. Photograph: Successió Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2011, MoMA New York

Miro was the son of a blacksmith and jeweller who lived in Barcelona. He was a loud supporter of the Catalan independence movement, and shared its deep-rooted sense of the possibilities of liberty. He held on to his identity as a Catalan, as a freedom fighter. On the death of General Franco in 1975, the artist while asked what he had done to promote opposition to the dictator, answered simply: “Free and violent things.” You can easily spot this things in his works.

2. He was a Surrealist

Joan Miró, Painting (Spanish Dancer) (Tapestry Design), 1926

Joan Miró, Painting (Spanish Dancer) (Tapestry Design), 1926

Miro was among the first artists to develop automatic drawing which was the beginning of Surrealism as an art movement. Surrealist automatism is a method of art making in which the artist suppresses conscious control over the making process, allowing the unconscious mind to have great sway. However, Miro chose not to become an official member of the Surrealists as he wanted to be free to experiment with other artistic styles without compromising his position within the group.

3. But before that he had a Catalan Fauvist period

Joan Miro, Self-portrait 1917, private collection

Joan Miro, Self-portrait 1917, private collection

Miro’s early art, like that of the similarly influenced Fauves and Cubists exhibited on his first exhibition Barcelona, was clearly inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. Some scholars dub this works as Catalan Fauvist period of Miro.

4. Hemingway was among his fans

The Farm, 1921-1922, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary Hemingway, 1987

The Farm, 1921-1922, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary Hemingway, 1987

“When I first knew Miro,” Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1934, “he had very little money and very little to eat, and he worked all day every day for nine months painting a very large and wonderful picture called The Farm…” The Farm was bought by Hemingway (who was an art collector) but not without problems. Miro didn’t want to sell it, it was too important to him. But the writer agreed with Miró’s dealer to pay 5,000 francs for it, which, he recalled, “was four thousand two hundred and fifty francs more than I had ever paid for a picture…” When it was time to make the last payment he risked losing the painting because he didn’t have the money. On the final day he trawled around every bar he knew in Paris, with his friend John Dos Passos, borrowing cash, and eventually raised the funds.

“I would not trade it for any picture in the world,” he wrote. “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 those two opposing things.” – wrote Hemingway.

 

5. Joan Miro was sensitive to the condition of the world

Still Life with Old Shoe, January 24-May 29, 1937, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of James Thrall Soby, 1970

Still Life with Old Shoe, January 24-May 29, 1937, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of James Thrall Soby, 1970

In 1930s, Miro worried about the state of Spain and Europe. “I had this unconscious feeling of impending disaster,” he later wrote. “Like before it rains; a heavy feeling in the head, aching bones, an asphyxiating dampness…” In another interview he said: “I am pessimistic, I am tragically pessimistic. No illusions are permitted. More violently than ever before there will be a struggle against everything that represents the pure value of the spirit.”

In this times, Miro found himself unable to draw anything but monsters. The margins of his sketchbooks are populated with visions of nightmarish couplings and weirdly erotic subhuman bodies.

6. André Breton wrote poems inspired by his Constellations

Joan Miro, The Morning Star (from Constellations), 1940, Fondacio Joan Miro, Barcelona

Joan Miro, The Morning Star (from Constellations), 1940, Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona

Between 1940 and 1941, Miro 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. Constellations can be summed up by Miro’s own words: “I felt a deep desire to flee. I shut myself deliberately. The night, music and the stars began to play a role in my painting.”. In the series showed up the subjects of women, birds, and the moon, which would dominate his iconography for much of the rest of his career.

7. He created a tapestry for World Trade Center in New York

Joan Miro, The World Trade Center Tapestry, destroyed

Joan Miro, The World Trade Center Tapestry, destroyed

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 and was one of the most expensive works of art lost during the September 11 attacks.

The work was an abstract design, with bright blocks of colour, red, green, blue and yellow, with black elements and a light brown background. Made of wool and hemp, it measured 20 × 35 feet (6.1 × 10.7 m) and weighed 4 tonnes.

8. He influenced American abstract expressionist

Mural Painting I Orange-Yellow, May 18, 1962, oil on canvas, Private collection

Mural Painting I Orange-Yellow, May 18, 1962, oil on canvas, Private collection

Miro been a significant influence on late 20th-century art, in particular the American abstract expressionist artists such as Motherwell, Calder, Gorky, Pollock, Matta and Rothko, while his lyrical abstractions and color field paintings were precursors of that style by artists such as Frankenthaler, Olitski and Louis.

9. Fundació Joan Miró was opened in Barcelona

Joan Miro

Fondacion Joan Miro in Barcelona, source: Wikipedia

A museum dedicated to his work, the Fundació Joan Miró, was established in his native Barcelona in 1975. The idea for the foundation was made in 1968 by the artist himself. He wanted treate a new building that would encourage particularly younger artists to experiment with contemporary art.

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About the Author

Art Historian, huge fan of Giorgione or Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Founder and CEO of DailyArtDaily.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.



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