Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Miro, Joan

Animated Landscape
oil on canvas
129.5 x 194.9 cm (51 x 76 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

This work is one of six canvases of identical size that Miro painted at his family farm near Barcelona, in summer 1927. The composition has defied analysis: while individual forms have been identified? the moon, the plant, a bird, a dragon-like creature? there is disagreement on whether it depicts a landscape, a room with a landscape seen through a window, or various pictures within a picture.

"The one I told you about and where there are many things? leaves, the moon, a bird, an animal, and other things neither you nor I know what they stand for but which have, alas, become a sight more real than the filth so many excrement eaters come up with and which I am told are in fashion. I consider this canvas to be one of my best in several years. It is odd because, little by little, I am regressing in the best sense of the word." (Miro described the painting to his art dealer.)

Joan Miro i Ferra (1893 - 1983) was a Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. He attended a commercial school and worked as an office clerk until a mental breakdown persuaded his artisan father to permit him to study art. From the beginning he sought to express concepts of nature metaphorically. From 1919 on he lived alternately in Spain and Paris, where he came under the influence of Dadaism and Surrealism. The influence of Paul Klee is apparent in his dream pictures and imaginary landscapes of the late 1920s, in which linear configurations and patches of color look almost as though they had been set down randomly. His mature style evolved from the tension between this fanciful, poetic impulse and his vision of the harshness of modern life.

Miro was never closely aligned with any movement and was too retiring in his manner to be the object of a personality cult, like his compatriot Picasso, but the formal and technical innovations that he sustained over a very long career guaranteed his influence on 20th-century art. A pre-eminent figure in the history of abstraction and an important example to several generations of artists around the world, he remained profoundly attached to the specific circumstances and environment that shaped his art in his early years. An acute balance of sophistication and innocence and a deeply rooted conviction about the relationship between art and nature lie behind all his work and account in good measure for the wide appeal that his art has continued to exercise across many of the usual barriers of style.

Earning international acclaim, Miro's work has been interpreted as a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, he expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting.

Miro worked extensively in lithography and produced numerous murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces. A museum dedicated to his work, the Fundacio Joan Miro, was established in his birth city in 1975.