Joan Miró: The Internationally Acclaimed Catalan Artist

Published at Suite101.com

Miró’s work is a demonstration of Catalan pride and an amalgamation of Surrealist and experimental art

Joan Miró i Ferrà (April 20, 1893 – Dec. 25, 1983) was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor and ceramist, from Barcelona. He was the son of a goldsmith and a jewellery maker.

Joan Miró, as he was more commonly known as, was an internationally acclaimed artist, winning the 1954 Venice Biennale Grand Prize for Graphic Work; in 1958 Miró won the Guggenheim International Award; in 1980 he won the Gold Medal of Fine Arts, Spain. Miró’s work has been interpreted as Surrealism and a manifestation of Catalan Pride.

Miró’s Move to Montparnasse, Paris

At a young age Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris. There, under the influence of the poets and writers, he developed his unique style, containing organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line.

Although Miró was thought of as a Surrealist because of his interest in automatism and the use of sexual symbols, his style was influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism and Dada, yet he rejected membership to any artistic movement in the interwar European years.

Miró described how he created one of his most famous works, ‘Harlequin’s Carnival’s:

“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…”

Miró’s Surrealist Origins

Miró was originally part of the Generation of ’27, a collective made up of Spanish poets, writers, painters and film makers that included Luis Buñuel, Miguel Hernández, José María Hinojosa and García Lorca. The latter three were murdered by Franco during Spain’s fascist reign. Buñuel and a few other artists were able to flee for France and the U.S. Miró was among these exiles.

Miró’s surrealist origins evolved out of this repression much like all Spanish surrealist work. Miró was also very 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.

In 1959, André Breton asked Miró to represent Spain in ‘The Homage to Surrealism’ exhibition together with works by 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.

Miró’s Experimental Style

Miró was among the first artists to develop automatic drawing as a way to undo previous established techniques in painting, and with André Masson, represented the beginning of Surrealism as an art movement. However, Miró chose not to become an official member of the Surrealists in order to be free to experiment with other artistic styles without compromising his position within the group.

‘Rich Harvest’ by Joan Miró

The Final Decades of Miró’s Life

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.

In 1974, Miró created a tapestry for the World Trade Center in New York City. He had initially refused to do a tapestry, however once he learnt the craft he did it and went on to produce several more. His World Trade Center Tapestry was displayed for many years at World Trade Center building. It was one of the most expensive works of art lost during the attack of the twin towers.

Miró’s Later Life and Death

In 1979 Miró received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Barcelona.

Miró suffered from heart disease and had visited a clinic for respiratory problems two weeks before his death on Dec. 25, 1983, where he was bedridden at his home in Palma, Mallorca.

Many of his pieces are exhibited today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and Fundació Joan Miró in Montjuïc, Barcelona; his body is buried nearby, at the Montjuïc cemetery. Today, Miró’s paintings sell for between $250,000 and $17 million; the latter was the auction price for the ‘La Caresse des étoiles’ on May 6, 2008 and is the highest amount paid for one of his works.

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