Sunday, March 9, 2014

Miro, Joan

The Tilled Field (La terre labouree)
oil on canvas
66 × 92.7 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA

During the summer of 1923 Joan Miro began painting this. This is a view of his family’s farm in Montroig, Catalonia. This painting is the first example of Miro’s Surrealist vision. While working on the painting he wrote, “I have managed to escape into the absolute of nature.” The Tilled Field is thus a poetic metaphor that expresses Miro's idyllic conception of his homeland, where, he said, he could not “conceive of the wrongdoings of mankind.”

Miro’s spirited depiction of The Tilled Field also has political content. The three flags - French, Catalan, and Spanish - refer to Catalonia’s attempts to secede from the central Spanish government. Primo de Rivera, who assumed Spain’s dictatorship in 1923, instituted strict measures, such as banning the Catalan language and flag, to repress Catalan separatism. By depicting the Catalan and French flags together, across the border post from the Spanish flag, Miro announced his allegiance to the Catalan cause.

"What I am seeking... is a motionless movement, something equivalent to what is called the eloquence of silence..." (Miro)

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.

"Perhaps the events of the moment, especially the drama of the war in Spain, I did feel the need to penetrate reality. I used to go every day to work at the Grande Chaumiere (art school in Paris) in nature. At that moment I felt a need to control things through the reality" (Miro)