Painting of the Day

10 Dec



The Wagon Tracks. by Joan Miro (1893-1983). Oil on canvas, 1918. Belongs to a private collection. 

Notes from

At the turn of the last century Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, was a dynamic city, rediscovering its own culture while taking its place on the world stage. Born there in 1893, Miró had a natural love of art – and a father who wanted him to go into business. By the age of 18, Miró had suffered a nervous breakdown and retreated to the family farm in the village of Mont-roig, in the dry Catalan hills along the seacoast. For the next few years, protected from World War I by Spain’s neutrality, he lived between city and farm, absorbing the latest in European art while developing his own style.

Notes from about Miro’s life:

Joan Miró Ferra was born April 20, 1893, in Barcelona. At the age of 14, he went to business school in Barcelona and also attended La Lonja’s Escuela Superior de Artes Industriales y Bellas Artes in the same city. Upon completing three years of art studies, he took a position as a clerk. After suffering a nervous breakdown, he abandoned business and resumed his art studies, attending Francesc Galí’s Escola d’Art in Barcelona from 1912 to 1915. Miró received early encouragement from the dealer José Dalmau, who gave him his first solo show at his gallery in Barcelona in 1918. In 1917 he met Francis Picabia.

In 1920 Miró made his first trip to Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso. From this time, Miró divided his time between Paris and Montroig, Spain. In Paris he associated with the poets Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, and Tristan Tzara and participated in Dada activities. Dalmau organized Miró’s first solo show in Paris, at the Galerie la Licorne in 1921. His work was included in the Salon d’Automne of 1923. In 1924 Miró joined the Surrealist group. His solo show at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1925 was a major Surrealist event; Miró was included in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre that same year. He visited the Netherlands in 1928 and began a series of paintings inspired by Dutch masters. That year he also executed his first papiers collés (pasted papers) and collages. In 1929 he started his experiments in lithography, and his first etchings date from 1933. During the early 1930s he made Surrealist sculptures incorporating painted stones and found objects. In 1936 Miró left Spain because of the civil war; he returned in 1941. Also in 1936 Miró was included in the exhibitions Cubism and Abstract Art and Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The following year he was commissioned to create a monumental work for the Paris World’s Fair.

Miró’s first major museum retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1941. In 1944 Miró began working in ceramics with Josep Lloréns y Artigas and started to concentrate on prints; from 1954 to 1958 he worked almost exclusively in these two mediums. He received the Grand Prize for Graphic Work at the Venice Biennale in 1954, and his work was included in the first Documenta exhibition in Kassel the following year. In 1958 Miró was given a Guggenheim International Award for murals for the UNESCO building in Paris. The following year he resumed painting, initiating a series of mural-sized canvases. During the 1960s he began to work intensively in sculpture. Miró retrospectives took place at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962, and the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1974. In 1978 the Musée National d’Art Moderne exhibited over five hundred works in a major retrospective of his drawings. Miró died on December 25, 1983, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

My comments:

Earlier this year there was a fantastic exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. that was basically a retrospective of Miro titled “Joan Miro: the Ladder of Escape”; this is where I first encountered Miro’s non-surrealist early works such as The Wagon Tracks. I find his early works very charming and interesting; I love the cool, calming palette Miro uses and the whimsical curve of his lines. His use of line is kind of like a cross between Henri Rousseau and Vincent van Gogh to me. Miro paints a very sunny image of his hometown, and I wonder how much verisimiltude exists in his portrayal of Barcelona: was it really as pleasant as Miro depicts it to be? At the time that Miro painted The Wagon Tracks in 1918, the socialists and anarchists of Spain were trying to strike in order to protest the sending of troops to Morocco (which is very close to the southern tip of Spain). The strike occurred all along the Northeast portion of Spain’s coast (where Catalonia is located), including in Barcelona. There was a lot of violence associated with this protest too. So evidently, Barcelona wasn’t as peaceful a place as Miro portrays, which just goes to show how much he must have loved the town. 

One Response to “Painting of the Day”

  1. tara December 11, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    finally , an artistic genius who isnt crazy. maybe surrealism helps to keep you sane. that ‘s an interesting thought.

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