Joan Miró

Joan Miró was a Catalan Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. Born to a family of goldsmith, he grew up in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood of Barcelona. He began drawing classes at the age of seven and in 1907 he enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotja. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc and he had his first solo show in 1918 at the Dalmau Gallery, where his work was ridiculed and defaced. His early art 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. Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris. He used to often pain in his parents’ farm in Mont-roig del Camp and annually returned to Mont-roig and developed a symbolism and nationalism that would stick with him throughout his career.

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. Through the mid-1920s Miró developed the pictorial sign language which would be central throughout the rest of his career. 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. The paintings that came out of this period were eventually dubbed Miró’s dream paintings.

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. 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, Miró's style was influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism and Dada, yet he rejected membership in any artistic movement in the interwar European years. 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 he troweled pigment onto his canvases. Miró married Pilar Juncosa in Palma (Majorca) on 1929.

In 1931, Pierre Matisse opened an art gallery in New York City and 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. 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 wasn’t until Spain’s Republican government commissioned him to paint The Reaper, for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exhibition, that Miró’s work took on a politically charged meaning. In 1939, with Germany’s invasion of France looming, Miró relocated in Normandy, and, as Germans invaded Paris, he fled to Spain. Between 1940 and 1941, Miró created the twenty-three gouache series Constellations. 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.

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. He had initially refused to do a tapestry, then he learned the craft and produced several. His World Trade Center Tapestry was displayed for many years at the World Trade Center building. It was one of the most expensive works of art lost during the September 11 attacks. 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. In 1979 Miró received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Barcelona. Miró, who suffered from heart disease, died in his home in Palma (Majorca) on December 25, 1983.

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