Joan Miro was a Spanish painter, ceramicist and sculptor. He began as a genre painter before shifting to folk art and interior decorating later in his career. Miro is said to be influenced by several artistic movements such as Surrealism, Fauvism, and Cubism but it was Surrealism to which his style is closely described as by many art theorists. The painter was primarily attracted to the works of Andre Breton, an exponent of the Surrealist art movement.
However, Joan Miro’s art has been a result of different yet consistent experimentations, going after his interest in non-objectivity. This is one of the reasons why his works greatly resemble abstract art, too. His paintings are characterized by its geometric shapes, distorted forms, and lively colors. His subjects and themes were expressed in multimedia ranging from engravings, ceramics, to bronze sculptures. Miro painted most days of his prime years in Palma, Mallorca, wherein he was inspired to depict post-war themes. Contrary to what his postwar paintings seemed to suggest, Miro was never interested in politics as compared to his contemporaries like Salvador Dali. He opted to isolate himself from creating manifestos nor signing petitions throughout his lifetime.
In his own studio, he explored the complexities of Surrealism. He came up with a new type of pictorial scene, in which the objects are based on the artist’s memory and are painted in their most basic forms possible. This style basically confirms the painter’s ability to represent an idea in its material form in a basic pictorial scene. However, it is worth mentioning that his art failed to become totally non-objective. It is because he opted to explore the ways to deconstruct traditional ideas and principles on representation. Miro had even dubbed the radical painting styles of his generation as an “assassination of painting”. He essentially became a Surrealist through his inventive yet radical style and semi-abstract objects.
Joan Miro’s important works are as follows:
Joan Miro I Ferra was born in April 20, 1893 in Barri Gotic, Barcelona. He grew up to a family of businessmen, in which his father Miguel Miro Adzerias was a goldsmith and jeweler while his mother was Dolors Ferra. At a young age, he showed deep interest in drawing and turned away from academics. He had then began taking drawing classes at a mansion turned school called Carrer del Regomir 13 during his boyhood.
In 1907 Miro became ever-serious about art so much so that he decided to enroll himself at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts in La Llotja, Barcelona. He took up decorative arts and landscape painting as major courses, but his father was not exactly happy about it. Miguel wanted his son to become a bookkeeper, which he did after some time, to satisfy the father’s wishes.
Before he went to business school, he transferred first to Cercle Artistic de Sant Lluc and got his first one-man art show at Dalmau Gallery by 1918. Unfortunately, his first exhibition did not go well as his works were publicly ridiculed. The artist had moved on from this by attending and studying Cubist-Surrealist works at various art exhibits overseas. He even went to Montparnasse and Paris to see pieces of modern art and then spent the summer in Catalonia.
Joan Miro entered the business school and received an internship as a clerk. He was less passionate about it apparently than what he felt when he was still doing art. He suffered a nervous breakdown at one point, which prohibited him to continue working for a while. He took this break to go back to art and found himself influenced by the Cubists and Fauves of his era. He particularly found the works of Paul Cezanne and Van Gogh utterly inspiring when their works were displayed at an exhibition in Barcelona.
There was resemblance in Joan Miro’s paintings to that of the avant-garde artists during the early years of his career. Because of such resemblance and the apparent influence of the modern art onto Spanish painters at the time, art scholars have come to believe that this period was supposed to be known as the Catalan Fauvist era.
During the early 1920’s, Miro found himself settling in Paris. There he continued a series of paintings whose subjects were inspired from the views of Mont-roig Del Camp. The Farm painting was a result of this series, which showed the maturity in Miro’s unique style and nationalism. The American writer, Ernest Hemingway, bought the said piece and applauded the painter for a successful work on depicting nostalgia about a place yet was unable to go back there.
Joan Miro continued painting outdoor scenes of his hometown while in Paris. But after a few years his style began to display Surrealist elements through the use of a well-developed symbolism, as he painted them from memory and represented it in a symbolic language. In 1924 he joined a group of Surrealism artists known for producing poetic and symbolic art works. Meanwhile, he was particularly becoming a master of representing dualities in his own way, which he painted in a dream-like atmosphere matched with groups of human figures.
Miro was one of the few artists who have experimented with creating collage and non-objective art works. This unconventional style introduced him to the idea of deconstructing the established painting style and principle. Hence, he termed the period the “assassination of painting”. A fine example of his unconventional style yet methodical process is the Head of a Catalan Peasant series, from 1924 to 1925.
In 1926 Joan Miro worked on a collaboration with Max Ernst. They were asked to design theatrical props and sets for the ballet production of Impresario Sergei Diaghilev. During this period Ernst, with the assistance of Miro, was able to invent a new technique called grattage. This technique uses layers of paint to be spread across onto the canvas and over an object in order to create a textured surface.
In 1928 the Spanish artist worked The Dutch Interiors painting. He also tried designing postcards similar to that of Jan Steen and Hendrik Martenszoon. Miro traveled extensively around Holland, which apparently became his main inspiration for the said decorative art painting.
In October 12, 1929 Miro exchanged marital vows with Pilar Juncosa in Palma. Two years later Dolors, their first daughter was born. His new commitment to having a family might have done him good as this could serve as a new motivation to accept the commission offered by Pierre Matisse to work for him. Miro began displaying his art works at Matisse’s gallery in New York City, and luckily, modern art was increasingly becoming popular in the US at the time, which gave him a great deal of exposure.
As with many artists of his generation, Joan Miro fled away from the center of the war or any place where the German troops have been annexing to. In 1940 Germany invaded Paris which prompted the artist to seek refuge in Normandy and then to Spain. Francisco Franco took over Spain during this period and so Miro was left with no option but find solace in Mont-roig and Varengeville, Palma. There he completed the Constellations series, which was composed of 23 gouache art works.
Constellations’ central theme is celestial symbolism which Andre Breton found exquisite, so much so that seventeen years later, Breton had made a poetry collection titled after the said painting. Breton stayed faithful with the celestial representations made by Miro by including subjects related to the moon, women, and avian animals. These subjects became Miro’s unique iconography which he would become very well known for throughout his career.
In 1940, Japanese publisher Shuzo Takiguchi produced Joan Miro’s first monograph. During the latter part of the decade he was to remain in Barcelona while paying a visit to Paris on several occasions. In Paris sought to be trained in printing with the help of Atelier Lacouriere and Mourlot Studios. There, he developed a strong bond with Fernand Mourlot which gave him the opportunity to produce thousands of art prints.
Joan Miro would continue fomenting collaborations with Andre Breton until 1959 when Breton asked him to attend The Homage to Surrealism art show. Miro was to represent Spain in the exhibition which was attended by some of the finest Surrealist painters in Europe like Salvador Dali, Enrique Tabara, and Eugenio Granell. For the exhibition, he executed ceramics and sculptures which he originally produced for the Maeght Foundation to be installed at the garden of Saint Paul de Vence, France.
The World Trade Center in NYC did not pass on the opportunity to avail the services of Miro when they had asked him to produce a tapestry alongside Joseph Royo. It was the latter whom taught him a lot about tapestry as never did he think about doing tapestry in his career. Royo and Miro would share a long-lasting professional relationship since then, with World Trade Center as their main art patron. As a matter of fact, the tapestry they have worked on became one of the most pricey art works that was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attack.
From the early 1970’s onward, Joan Miro had been accepting projects based in the US. Aside from the WTC commission, he did work on another tapestry project for the National Gallery in WA, US in 1977. And in 1981, he made a large-scale sculpture using mixed media materials to decorate the Loop area of downtown Chicago. The sculpture depicts the sun, moon and a star, which is collectively called Miro’s Chicago. The work is situated right across Chicago Picasso, which obviously says a lot about Miro’s significance and status as an artist.
The University of Barcelona granted his honorary doctorate recognition in 1979, at such an old age. On December 25th of 1983 Joan Miro died of a heart disease while in his house in Palma, Spain. Today, the art market values his works anywhere between $250,000 and $26M, one of the most expensive Surrealist artists. Additionally, his La Caresse des Etoiles (1938) was sold at an auction for $17M on May 2008.