MIRÓ Joan
(born in 1893 at Montroig, near Tarragona). He has often returned to this family domain which has given him with the theme for several paintings among which is The Farm. Miró is a native of a province that, more than any other part of Spain, has always been the favoured spot of arts and artists. After having served as a bridge between East and West, Catalonia was the cradle of the Romanesque Style. Workshops of illuminators and famous fresco painters flourished there in the Middle Ages, and finally modern art recruited some of its boldest pioneers there. From Catalonia came Miró and Dali in particular, two of the chief creators of the Surrealist movement. At the age of fourteen he entered the School of Fine Arts of Barcelona, left it three years later, and worked in a store. Later he attended courses at the Gali Academy. In 1915 he felt official teaching did more harm than good, and he decided to work alone. He had the good fortune to be taken up by Dalmau, the perspicacious manager of an important art gallery in Barcelona. It was Dalmau who, in 1918, organized the first exhibition of his protégé.
At the time Miró's works, such as The Chauffeur and Landscape with a Donkey, were clearly influenced by Van Gogh. After a short stay in Paris ( 1919) his painting caught the beneficial germ of Cubism, although it remained definitely representational, if not imitative. The drawing was dry, planes sharply evident, the colours light without intensity. In 1921 the critic Maurice Raynal presented at La Licorne Gallery in Paris, which no longer exists, an important group of Miró's canvases. Connoisseurs did not fail to observe the incompatibility of Cubism with the temperament of the Catalan painter, with his instinct, his native ingenuousness, his fundamental anti-intellectualism, and his already asserted passion for colour. It was not among painters or through study of the works of the masters that he came to recognize his calling but by associating with poets and the young rebels who were preparing to set off the bomb of Surrealism. No one was, in fact, less suited to speculation and less willing to tolerate restraint and discipline than Miró. An anarchist by birth, naturally hostile to any tradition or cult, either of Nature or of museums, his enthusiastic enlistment in a movement that proclaimed the bankruptcy of the intellect, contempt for reality, and the sovereignty of intuition can be easily understood. For two years, dividing his time between Barcelona and Paris, he continued to execute landscapes and representational still lifes ( The Farm, The Ear of Corn). In 1924 he finished his first definitely subjective and unrealistic picture, Turned Soil. At the same time he signed the first Manifesto of Surrealism published by Andri Breton. In November 1925 he participated in the first exhibition of the Surrealist group at the Galerie Pierre. In collaboration with Max Ernst, he designed the settings and costumes of Romeo and Juliet for the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev. From this period dates Harlequin's Fair ( 1925), in the Albright Art Gallery of Buffalo.
His works were already very characteristic of his art as we admire it today. All of Miró is in them, with his schematic forms, his powerful, heavy 'spots', his patiently prepared grounds, and also his fantasy, his humour, his freshness of emotion, his innate affinity for the craftsmen of the African jungles or the American prairie. These are complex works, overburdened but already containing the repertoire of signs that Miró had only to amplify, particularize and accentuate in order to achieve the paradoxical mastery that makes the value and originality of his current work. In 1928 he visited Holland. He exhibited for the first time in the United States at the Valentine Gallery in New York. In 1930 he showed his papiers collés (*) to the Parisian public. In 1931 the Ballets de Monte Carlo commissioned the settings and costumes for Jeux d'Enfants from him. He executed a large mural decoration for the Paris Exhibition of 1937. In 1940, obliged to leave France, he returned to Catalonia and soon settled at Palma de Majorca. Withdrawn from the tumult of arms, he continued to paint, took up lithography and, in collaboration with Artigas, ceramics. He returned to France in 1944, and from then on he has worked either in Paris or in Barcelona. His reputation has grown and his activity also. He has tried his hand at media other than painting, with equal success. In the space of a few years, personal as his art may be, his renown has become universal.
His career, clearly enough, offers nothing to captivate amateurs of the picturesque and unforeseen. Besides, he has not made the least attempt to ornament it or bestow the romantic touch of which the public is so fond. It offers neither comment nor confidence: Miró is a silent man. Even though his work is diagged into the limelight by his admirers, he himself remains in the background, reserved, unobtrusive and unnoticed. No one has solicited or intrigued less to assert himself and to make himself known. But no one has ever asserted himself and become known in less time. How can this be explained, if not by the fact that his painting came to fill a gap, to satisfy a need and to offer something that other painters, even the greatest among them, have denied?
What is there in a picture by Miró that casts such an irresistible spell over the spectator? Is it form? There are no forms, only elements, embryos of forms, rudimentary figures like the graffiti that children scratch on walls, signs that recall those engraved in caves by prehistoric man. Is it colour? With Miró, to be sure, the lyricism of colour recovers 'its significance at the point where the Fauves and Matisse had left it', as Maurice Raynal has said. Observe, however, how restricted Miró's palette is: a few elementary colours, blue, vermilion, yellow, green, black, used sparingly but with assurance and infallible accuracy. Nor is it composition. Miró seems to throw lines and spots nonchalantly on to his canvas, unconcerned with their interrelations, or the requirements of space and depth. Blood-red or electric-blue crescents, black masses softly spread, cells holding their nuclei like targets, childish silhouettes daubed with artificial carelessness, hairy placentas entangled in their cords: a whole world, unexpected, whimsical, droll, larvae, madrepores, spasmodic amœbas, long and sinuous filaments, vagrant lines ending in a kind of cup-and-ball or kite. It is a dreamworld transcribed by a master technician. One can understand, therefore, why André Breton could write in 1928: ' Miró is probably the most Surrealistic of us all'. Miró is a Surrealist quite naturally. without recourse to artifice or attitudinizing, with sincerity and humility. He is, in fact, the only Surrealist painter with no contempt for the resources of his art or the constraints of his profession. Although there is neither subject nor object, neither volume nor logical construction in his painting, it is undoubtedly plastic. And because of its plasticity it has survived the breakdown of Surrealism. But this is not enough to explain the fascination it exercises. Tired of studio experiments, aesthetic demonstrations and rhetoric, we find in Miró's work a fresh spring water to dispel our fever and clear our head. Here at last is a painter who poses no problems, for he is aware of none; who resorts to the conveniences of tradition no more than to the calculated extravagance of the professional avant-garde; who refuses the legacy of his predecessors and does not try to outdo anyone. He does not reinvent painting, he invents it, like primitive man or a child. He does not speak any of the idioms current in our time, but the time is nevertheless grateful to him for speaking a language it has forgotten but still longs for. A poetry of the unutterable, of the unreal, of germinations and beginnings, is the secret of his power. He will never be the head of a school or the advocate of a trend. Unclassifiable, unassimilable, inimitable, in complete simplicity. complete innocence, he holds a place apart in contemporary art. It is not the highest place, but it is the least disputed.  Miró was awarded the Graphic Arts Prize at the 1956 Venice Biennale.
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