JOAN MIRO FEATURE
boxing club in the Centre Americain.
1923 Began The Tilled Field. Montroig. a turning point in his art. From now on. symbolism replaces realism. Miro develops a ‘shorthand’ ofquasi-magical symbols and strange amoeba-like creatures which he calls ‘personages’. In a 1959 issue of Xeme Siecle. Miro explains his preference for objects over humans: “For me. an object is alive; this cigarette. this matchbox. contains a secret life much more intense than some humans. I see a tree. I get a sensation if it were breathing. talking. A tree is something human.‘
1924 Meets Andre Breton. a founding father of Surrealism. While the Surrealists consider Miro to be one of them. Breton suspects that he is not entirely true to the movement. For his part. Miro later describes Breton as exasperatingly dogmatic.
By now. Miro has totally rejected the styles ofpainting he has been dabbling in for his own new emblematic style. In a letter to his friend Rafols he writes. ‘I know I am following dangerous roads and I confess I am often seized with the panic of a traveller walking unexplored paths.’ He mentions the “monstrous animals and angelic animals. . . trees with ears and eyes‘ which crop up in his painting.
1925 Takes part in the first Surrealist exhibition. but regards the Surrealist poets and writers as having a greater influence on his work than the artists. ‘I’ve always been very much concerned with pictorial
‘ construction. not just poetic associations. and that’s where I differed from the Surrealists.’ Under the influence of Surrealist writers. he introduces text into his paintings.
1925 Max Ernst and Miro are ‘excommunicated’ from the Surrealist movement when they design sets for a production of Romeo and Juliet staged in Monte Carlo. This kind of bourgeois culture. say the Surrealists. is an attempt ‘to domesticate the dreams and revolts of physical and intellectual hunger for the benefit of the international bureacracy.’ 1927 Moves to Montmatre where his neighbours are Ernst. Magritte and Arp. of whom he says. ‘we shared each other’s poverty and radishes.’
1928—1931 Exasperated by his own work. which he regards as too predictable. he embarks on an ‘anti-painter’ streak and makes a whole range ofsmall frenzied constructions. a prelude to his later sculpture. Marries his cousin, Pilar Juncosa. 1934 Beginning of his ‘savage period’. in which Miro paints aggressive. grimacing personages. often women. In Ceci est la couleur de mes reves. published 1977. Miro
would write ‘there’s nothing erotic in my work. Occasionally I have painth the sexual act. not often. And the male is always threatened by the female. The man is always eaten up by a threatening woman.’ His nightmarish paintings are influenced by his awareness that Spain is on the brink ofCivil War.
1935 Man Ray photographs him against what seems to be a hangman’s rope. Miro
‘There’s nothing erotic in my work. Occasionally I have painted the sexual act, not otten. And the male is always threatened by the female. The man is always eaten up by a threatening woman.’
always disputed the apparent happy-go—lucky flavour of his painting: ‘By nature I am tragic and taciturn. In my youth I passed through periods of profound sadness. if there is anything humorous about my paintings. it has not been consciously sought. This humour comes perhaps from the need I feel to escape from the tragic side of my temperament.’
1939—1940 The Nationalist victory in Spain and German invasion of France forces Miro to take refuge in Majorca.
1940-41 In his artist’s notebook. Miro notes his ambition to ‘create new human beings. breathe life into them and create a world for them.’ and warns himself not to become like Picasso: ‘when you see some works of his after a few years’ time they fail completely and look empty.’
ﬂirt) with Rope. mid l930s (detail)
1941 First large Miro retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. New York.
1945 Takes up sculpture and ceramics again and is commissioned to make a number of murals over the next twenty years. including one for UNESCO in Paris.
1963 Major retrospective at the Tate Gallery. London.
1955 Gives himselfover almost entirely to sculpture. To anyone familiar with Miro’s paintings. his sculpture is instantly recognisable. The three-dimensional ‘personages’ are not very different from the painted ones. Often they are cast from scrap metal and objects found in the countryside of Catalonia or Majorca. Usually they are female figures — Miro’s lifelong obsession with women. birds and stars pursued him to his death — so inevitably some have the appearance of primitive Mother Earth figures.
The wit. colour and spontaneity that characterise his sculptures have led Miro psychoanalysts to believe that he was better able to dispel his perpetual gloom when he was sculpting than when he was painting. Whatever the truth. by the time ofhis death. Miro’s sculpture was regarded. in its own right. as being among the best in the world. 1983 Miro dies 1993 Major exhibitions in Madrid. Barcelona and New York celebrate the centenary ofMiro’s birth.
Miro’s sculptures are at The Royal Scottish Academy until 2(lSept.
The List 3| .lul_\ l3 August I‘M: 9