Occupation: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics
Education: Escuela Superior de Artes Industriales y Bellas Artes, Barcelona; Escola d’Art, Barcelona
Joan Miró was an influential Spanish artist of the 20th century who famously rejected traditional methods of painting. His work has long been categorized as Surrealist, a free expression of the subconscious mind. Miró was a painter, sculptor and ceramicist.
Early Life and Work
Born in Barcelona in the Catalonia region of Spain on April 20, 1893, he began studying at La Lonja’s Escuela Superior de Artes Industriales y Bellas Artes in Barcelona in 1907. At the same time, Miró enrolled in business school as his father, a watchmaker, and mother, a goldsmith, wanted him to have a stable vocation. Miró worked as a clerk for nearly two years after completing school, however, he decided to give up the business world and devote himself to art after suffering a nervous breakdown. He enrolled at Francesc Galí’s Escola d’Art in Barcelona from 1912 to 1915 to continue his education. Encouraged by the art dealer José Dalmau, Miró presented his first exhibition in 1918 at the Dalmau Galleries in Barcelona.
Miró’s early works showcase an impressive range of stylistic influences—the vivid colors of Fauvism, fractured forms of Cubist perspective, the flatness of the Catalan folk art and Spanish Romanesque frescoes and 17th century Dutch Realism.
Experimentation and Transformation
Miró made his first trip to Paris in 1920 and by 1921, he had moved permanently to the city. He quickly became a denizen of the artistic community in Montparnasse, where association with Surrealist poets and writers of the day became crucial in the development of his mature style. His first solo exhibition in Paris, organized by Dalmau, was held in 1921 at La Licorne Gallery. In 1928, Miró was part of an exhibition by Surrealist painters in Paris. In spite of his personal and professional associations, Miró retained his individuality in style and ideology and experimented with new forms throughout his career.
By the late 1920s, Miró’s work took a new turn when he began to experiment with collages, lithographs and sculptures. His Surrealist sculptures included painted stones and found objects. Drawing on themes of memory, fantasy, and irrationality, Miró produced paintings that could be described as the visual manifestations of Surrealist poetry—reveries with a sense of humor, depictions of warped animals, twisted organic forms and bizarre geometric assemblages. Typically, works by Miró during this period featured amorphous shapes interspersed with clusters of lines, dots, and squiggles. Miró exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, in 1936 and in 1937, he was commissioned to create a monumental work for the Paris World Fair. He created an anti-war mural called “The Reaper” which was 5.5 meters high. A retrospective of Miró’s work was held at the MoMA in New York in 1941.
During World War II, Miró fled France and moved back to Spain. He undertook a series of 23 gouaches that comprised images of birds, women and the moon—themes he would continue to revisit for the rest of his career—titled “Constellations,” earning him the praise of Andre Bréton, the father of Surrealism.
Miró continued to produce ethereal works, gradually whittling his figures into biomorphic abstractions and streaks of color. The artist also continued his experiments with etchings and lithography, producing two large-scale ceramic murals installed at the UNESCO building in Paris, titled “Wall of the Moon” and “Wall of the Sun,”(1957–59).
The late 1960s marked the onset of his final artistic period. During this time, Miró focused on public art works, developing monumental pieces for public display. In particular, he felt the influence of the French Art Informel movement, distinguished by the attention to bodily language and eschewing of representational form.
Miró was awarded the Grand Prize for Graphic Work at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and the Guggenheim International Award in 1958. Retrospectives of his work 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 held another major retrospective of his drawings, exhibiting over 500 works. In 1976, the Joan Miró Foundation Center of Contemporary Art Study opened in Barcelona. Three years later, the University of Barcelona named the legendary artist Doctor Honoris Causa.
Miró died in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, on December 25, 1983.
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona
Tate Modern, London
Museum of Modern Art, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto