Spanish Painter and Printmaker
Born: April 20, 1893 - Barcelona, Spain
Died: December 25, 1983 - Palma De Mallorca, Spain
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Most Important Art
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"The joy of achieving in a landscape a perfect comprehension of a blade of grass.. as beautiful as a tree or a mountain.. What most of all interests me is the calligraphy of the tiles on a roof or that of a tree scanned leaf by leaf, branch by branch."
Early in his career, Miró primarily painted still-lifes, landscapes, and genre scenes. Influences ranging from the folk art and Romanesque church frescoes of his native Catalan region in Spain to 17th-century Dutch realism were eventually superseded by more contemporary ones: Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism captivated the young artist, who had relocated to Paris in 1921. His exposure to the ideas of André Breton and Breton's Surrealist circle prompted Miró to make radical changes to his style, although the artist cannot be said to have identified consistently with a single school. Rather, his artistic career may be characterized as one of persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity. Miró's signature biomorphic forms, geometric shapes, and semi-abstracted objects are expressed in multiple media, from ceramics and engravings to large bronze installations.
Most Important Art
More Art Works
The Tilled Field (1923)
Populated with complex, often inscrutable forms, The Tilled Field, with its puzzling iconography, is an abstract depiction of the landscape of Miró's Catalan homeland. The painting, teeming with organic forms that merge and meld seemingly in defiance of nature, is a testament to Miró's ever-increasing stylization and abstraction at this point in his career. The picture may be viewed as both an homage to Spain's past and a statement on the contemporary political upheaval in Europe. In works like this one, as well as works from the period leading up to and throughout World War II, Miro frequently expressed his own political sentiments. The painting also emphasizes how extremely radical Miró's departure was from his previous, naturalist style once he arrived in Paris and was exposed to the avant-garde art of that city where innovation thrived.
Oil on canvas - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Joan Miró was born in Spain in 1893 to a family of craftsmen. His father, Miguel, was a watchmaker and goldsmith, while his grandfathers were cabinetmakers and blacksmiths. Perhaps in keeping with his family's artistic trade, Miró exhibited a strong love of drawing at an early age; according to biographers, he was not particularly inclined toward academics. Rather, Miró pursued art-making and studied landscape and decorative art at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (the Llotja) in Barcelona.
Despite his professed desire to forge a career in the arts, at the behest of his parents, Miró attended the School of Commerce from 1907-10. His relatively brief foray into the business world, characterized by constant study, instilled a strong sense of order and a robust work ethic in Miró but at a very high cost. Following what has been characterized as a nervous breakdown, Miró abandoned his business career and subsequently devoted himself fully to making art.
In 1912, Miró enrolled in an art academy in Barcelona. The school taught Miró about modern art movements in Western Europe and introduced him to contemporary Catalan poets. Miró was also encouraged to go out into the countryside in the midst of the landscapes he wished to paint and to study the artistic practices of his contemporaries. Between 1912 and 1920, Miró painted still-lifes, nudes, and landscapes. His style during this period in his early career has been referred to as "poetic realism." It was during this phase of his career that Miró developed an interest in the bold, bright colors of the French Fauve painters and the fractured compositions of the Cubists.
In 1919, Miró moved to Paris to continue his artistic development. Due to considerable financial hardship, his life in Paris was difficult at first. When discussing his life during those first lean, early years in Paris, the artist 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." 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..."
Miró was drawn to the Dada and Surrealist movements. He became friends with the Surrealist writer 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," which heavily informed Miró's work. While the Surrealists experimented with the irrational in art and writing, Miró's art manifested these dream-like qualities, becoming increasingly biomorphic, enigmatic, and innovative.
To his utter disappointment, Miró's first solo show in Paris in 1921 was a complete disaster; he did not sell a single work. However, a determined Miró went on to participate in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925. He collaborated with the group's members in the creation of larger commissions, working with Max Ernst in 1926 on the creation of Sergei Diaghilev's ballet set designs. In his own work at the time, Miró painted fantastic and bizarre interpretations of his dreams.
Miró married Pilar Juncosa in 1929, and their only child, Dolores, was born in 1931. His career flourished during this time. In 1934, Miró's art began to be exhibited in both France and the United States. He was still residing in Paris when war broke out in Europe, and by 1941 Miró was forced to flee to Mallorca with his family. Perhaps not surprisingly, warfare and political tension were prominent themes in his art during this period; his canvases became increasingly grotesque and brutal. Concurrently, Miró's first retrospective was held at the MoMA in New York City to great acclaim. His renown continued to grow both in America and Europe, culminating in a large-scale mural commission in Cincinnati in 1947. Miró's simplified forms and his life-long impulse toward experimentation inspired a generation of American artists, the Abstract Expressionists, whose emphasis on non-representational art signaled a major shift in artistic production in the U.S.
In the 1950s, Miró began dividing his time between Spain and France. A large exhibition of 60 of Miró's works was held at the Gallerie Maeght in Paris and subsequently at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1953. By the mid-1950s, Miró had begun working on a much larger scale, both on canvas and in ceramics. In 1959, Miró 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 continued to break away from his own patterns, 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. 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 so profoundly integral to the development of Modern art.
Along with other Dada and Surrealist artists like Jean Arp and Yves Tanguy, Miró explored the possibility of creating an entirely new visual vocabulary for art that, while not divorced from the objective world, could exist outside of it. Rather than transitioning to complete abstraction, Miró's biomorphic forms remained within the bounds of objectivity. However, they were forms of pure invention and were made expressive and imbued with meaning through their juxtaposition with other forms and the artist's use of color. Much has been made of his influence on the Color Field painters - Robert Motherwell, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, among others; on Alexander Calder, who was a close friend of Miró; and, more recently, on designers Paul Rand, Lucienne Day, and Julian Hatton.
Influences and Connections
Artists, Friends, Movements
Artists, Friends, Movements
Useful Resources on Joan Miró
| Miró (Taschen 25th Anniversary) |
By Walter Erben, Hajo Duchting
| Joan Miró |
By Rosa Maria Malet
| Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937 |
By Jim Coddington, Robert Lubar, Anne Umland, Joan Miro
| Joan Miró 1917-1934: I'm Going To Smash Their Guitar |
By Agnes de la Beaumelle
| Miró |
By Jacques Dupin
| A Broad Look at Miró at London's Tate Modern |
By Valerie Gladstone
| Joan Miró: A Life in Paintings |
By Tim Adams
| Angry Young Man |
By Peter Schjeldahl
| Miró, Serial Murderer of Artistic Conventions |
By Holland Cotter
| Joan Miró: Parade of Obsessions |
Joan Miró Foundation Inauguration
| Joan Miró Dies in Spain at 90; Influenced Art for 60 Years |
By John Russell
| Tate Shots: Demond Morris on Miro || Tate Shots: Miro |
Tate curators discuss the Miro retrospective at the museum
| Exhibition Preview: Miro |
Visitors discuss Miro's 2011 Tate Museum exhibition
| Joan Miro (Artists of the 20th Century) |