Joan Miró (April 20, 1893, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, to December 25, 1983, Palma, Majorca, Spain) was an influential Spanish Catalan sculptor, painter and ceramic artist.
Attributes of His Works: Miró's works in the abstract and surrealist art movements were very important in the evolution of 20th century modern art. He used a limited range of bright and dark contrasting colors and thick lines to portray landscapes and still lifes. His sculptures were equally surrealist, often dedicated to the sky and celestial bodies and their relationship with the Earth, as well as birds, which he considered a link between the Earth and sky.
Famous Works: Portrait of Vincent Nubiola; The Tilled Field; May 1968; Catalan Landscape (The Hunter); The Farm, The Sun, the Moon and One Star
The Early Life of the Artist
Miró's family was not keen on him becoming an artist, but after finishing business school and finding a regular job he suffered a nervous breakdown and fell ill with typhoid fever, indicating to his father that he wasn’t fit to work in an office. It was then that he started studies at the Gali Art Academy in Barcelona.
In 1917, Joan Miró wrote to a friend: "I must tell you that if I have to live much longer in Barcelona I will be asphyxiated by the atmosphere — so stingy and such a backwater (artistically speaking)." Despite his love and pride for his Catalan roots, Miró longed to be a part of the rebellious and creative world of Paris. When he finally made it there, his friends included Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, who helped the financially struggling artist by purchasing his paintings. Hemingway was obsessed with The Farm, paying 5000 francs for it in installments, for which he had to beg and borrow the money for the last installment. Miró then spent more time Catalonia and attempted to capture the essence of the Catalonian peasant in his paintings, but, as the Spanish Civil War was becoming more and more inevitable and war across Europe loomed, he could feel the historical weight on his shoulders and his paintings and sketches became more grotesque. With the outbreak of war in Spain, Joan Miró painted propaganda posters for the Republican side, but by 1937 was forced to seek refuge in Paris and wrote to his art dealer "We are living through a terrible drama, everything happening in Spain is terrifying in a way you could never imagine. I feel very uprooted here and nostalgic for my country…"
Joan Miró and his wife moved to Varengeville, Normandy, in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, but as the Nazis closed in, they took the last train to Paris and then returned to Spain. Living in Spain under the authoritarian rule of Franco, his paintings became even more fearless, and he continued supporting rebellious movements into his old age, praising the unrest and strikes in Paris.
His World Trade Center Tapestry (1974) was among the most expensive artworks destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Portrait of Vincent Nubiola (1917, Folkwang Museum) had been purchased by Picasso while Joan Miró was in Paris. Learning to be a painter in Barcelona, he met Nubiola, an agriculture professor at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, at Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc. This experimental piece masterfully mixes Cubism and Fauvism images and is thought to be heavily influenced by van Gogh. It is one of the most famous examples of his early works.
The Tilled Field (1924, Guggenheim Museum) is one of Miró's first forays into surrealism. It shows his childhood farm, laying bare his Catalonian sympathies and disdain for the growing authoritarian mood of Spain.
Joan Miró expressed his political sympathies even more explicitly in the artwork May 1968 (1973, Fundació Joan Miró), inspired by the student protests and strikes taking place in Paris, where he had spent so much time. Having moved to the island of Mallorca so as to be as far away from the Franco regime as possible while remaining in Spain, he was still attracted to the ideals of freedom and rebellion symbolized by the unrest in France, although such a rebellion was impossible under Franco. The stark black and white and chaotic reds and yellows, abstract figures and handprints surrealistically tell the tale of protest and solidarity.
Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) (1924, Museum of Modern Art) was another of Miró's surrealistic depictions of his homeland, and if you know what to look for, you can find the hunter wearing a Catalonian beret and with a pipe, a sardine skeleton next to the word Sard, and the horizon separating the land from the sky.
Miró described The Farm (1922, National Gallery of Art) as "a summary of my entire life in the countryside" and Ernest Hemingway said about it "It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there. No one else has been able to paint these two very opposing things."
As well as being a painter, Miró was an accomplished sculptor. The Sun, the Moon and One Star (1968, Fundació Joan Miró) was an abstract piece made as a monument for Barcelona and there is another version in Chicago (called Miró's Chicago), as well as the bronze model for the Chicago, located in Minneapolis. Like many of his artworks, it represents the natural world and how the earth is connected with the sky.
Miró died at the age of 90 of heart failure on Christmas Day in December 1983