Joan MIRO |
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Spain 1893 - 1985
Spanish painter, ceramicist, sculptor and graphic artist born April 20,1893, in Barcelona. He died in Majorca, Spain, on December 25, 1983.
His surrealist works, with their subject matter drawn from the realm of memory and imaginative fantasy, are some of the most original of the 20th century.
After overcoming considerable opposition from his father- a goldsmith by trade- Miro studied at Francesco Gali's School of Art in Barcelona from 1912 onwards. His early pictures were landscapes and portraits in which elements of folk art are combined with expressive fauvist gestures.
In 1919 he moved to Paris and the early influences of Van Gogh and the Fauves were succeeded by Picasso and Cubism.
By 1923 he was a prominent member of the Surrealists and signed their manifesto in 1924. He was part of
the first Surrealist exhibition, which was staged in the Galerie Pierre in 1926. Around this time Miro began producing his linear, dreamlike compositions. When the Civil War broke out, Miro left Spain and began to
paint the frightful visions which fill his 'wild' pictures.
From the late 1920's he had begun producing a wide range of graphic works, Miró also experimented in a wide array of other media, devoting himself to etchings and lithographs for several years in the 1950s and also working in watercolor, pastel, collage, and paint on copper and masonite. In 1954 Miro was awarded the Grand Prix for graphic art at the Biennale in Venice. An artist of great wit and originality, Miro constantly explored forms and techniques in his graphic work. He used carborundum and resin painted directly on to the plate to build up a thick relief form on the metal. When printed, this creates a high impasto effect which adds depth and texture to the print. The rich blacks act as a foil to the bright colours wich become even stronger when placed next to them. As Miro once said "I want to hit the spectator with a straight right between the eyes before he has time for a second thought".
Between 1940 and 1941 Miro produced his 'Constellations'- a series of luminous gouaches on paper. These works depict man and nature, the earth and the cosmos.
From 1940 to 1948 Miro left France for Spain to escape the Second World War. During this time he produced his first ceramic pieces working in collaboration with the Spanish potter Llorens Artigas.
Between 1954 and 1959, he devoted himself almost exclusively to this medium. Whilst working on a commission for the UNESCO Building in Paris (Wall of the Moon and Wall of the Sun, 1957-59) and for Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., he developed an entirely new style of ceramic wall design.
Miró drew on memory, fantasy, and the irrational to create works of art that are visual analogues of surrealist poetry. These dreamlike visions, such as Harlequin's Carnival or Dutch Interior, often have a whimsical or humorous quality, containing images of playfully distorted animal forms, twisted organic shapes, and odd geometric constructions. The forms of his paintings are organized against flat neutral backgrounds and are painted in a limited range of bright colors, especially blue, red, yellow, green, and black. Amorphous amoebic shapes alternate with sharply drawn lines, spots, and curlicues, all positioned on the canvas with seeming nonchalance. Miró later produced highly generalized, ethereal works in which his organic forms and figures are reduced to abstract spots, lines, and bursts of colors.
He is one of the giants of twentieth-century art, and for many, one of its most spiritual artists. Miró’s fellow Catalonian, Antoni Tàpies, pointed to one of the keys of Miró’s greatness: "Miró offered us the continual, changing and infinite flux of nature; faced with immutable laws, he offered us the rhythms and spontaneous ebb and flow of the waves in a living world.... He showed us that we are all equal because we are all made from the stars themselves. He made the wretched see that they carried all the riches of the universe within themselves. He told us that, before things could grow bigger and better, love had to impregnate everything . . . that we ought to seek once more for the purity and innocence of the first day."
Tàpies is not the only one who holds Miró up as one of the essential artists of the twentieth century. It is becoming more and more clear that, as Michael Kimmelman suggests in his 1993 New York Times review of the Museum of Modern Art’s Centennial Miró show, the artist "gave free rein to an imagination that has no parallel in the history of art" and adds that "it gave to the world . . . an unforgettable and entirely original vein of comic and erotic fantasy." Kimmelman goes on to proclaim Miró the most "accessible painter among the great figures of twentieth-century art. . . . His paintings can be so joyous and hilarious that you laugh out loud in front of them. But they have their darker side, too, and the two sides of the artist’s imagination mixed."
In another New York Times piece, Hayden Herrera reminds us that in 1924, after Miró had discovered his own "formal language," Picasso told him that "he was the only artist after Picasso himself to have carried painting forward." Acclaimed as the "greatest surrealist of us all" by Andre Breton, hailed by Pierre Alechinsky as one of the chief inspirations of the COBRA movement, and acclaimed by critics like Clement Greenburg and Arthur C. Danto as the artist whose 1941 show at the Museum of Modern Art overwhelmed the New York painters who saw it because "it answered questions that were inchoately felt, namely how to make the next move." As Lee Krasner, one of the leading Abstract Expressionist painters and the wife of Jackson Pollock, put it, Miró’s paintings were "little miracles."
Barbara Rose perhaps best explains Miró’s importance when she notes, "Miró’s contribution to current painting is inestimable," and adds: "surrealist space, at least as it was developed by Miró, is open, expansive, indeterminate, as opposed to the closed, finite restrictive space of cubism, with its layered planes and silhouetted shapes. Surrealist space is as fluid as the thought process involved in the technique of free association that inspired surrealist automatism. Certainly it is no accident that the discovery of the unconscious, as well as man’s initial experiences in exploring atmospheric outer space, coincided with the conceptualization of a new kind of pictorial space that is both continuous and unbounded." ...
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