preconceived opinion

Joan Miró

[mee-roh; Sp. mee-raw]

Joan Miró i Ferrà (April 20, 1893December 25, 1983) was an ethnic Catalan (of Spanish nationality) painter, sculptor and ceramist born in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, 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, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeoise society, and famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting.


Born to the family of a goldsmith and watchmaker, the young Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris, France. There, under the influence of the poets and writers, he developed his unique style: organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line. Generally thought of as a Surrealist because of his interest in automatism and the use of sexual symbols (for example, ovoids with wavy lines emanating from them), Miró’s style was influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism and Dada, yet he rejected membership to any artistic movement in the interwar European years. André Breton, the founder of Surrealism, described him as "the most Surrealist of us all." Miró confessed to creating one of his most famous works, Harlequin's Carnival, under similar circumstances:

"How did I think up my drawings and my ideas for painting? Well I'd come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I'd go to bed, and sometimes I hadn't any supper. I saw things, and I jotted them down in a notebook. I saw shapes on the ceiling...


In 1926, he collaborated with Max Ernst on designs for Sergei Diaghilev. With Miró's help, Ernst pioneered the technique of grattage, in which he troweled pigment onto his canvases. Miró married Pilar Juncosa in Palma de Mallorca on October 12, 1929; their daughter Dolores was born July 17, 1931. Shuzo Takiguchi published the first monograph on Miró in 1940. In 1948-49, although living in Barcelona, Miró made frequent visits to Paris to work on printing techniques at the Mourlot Studios (lithographs) and at the Atelier Lacourière (engravings). A close relationship lasting forty years developed with the printer Fernand Mourlot and resulted in the production of over one thousand different lithographic editions.

In 1959, André Breton asked Miró to represent Spain in The Homage to Surrealism exhibition together with works by Enrique Tábara, Salvador Dalí, and Eugenio Granell. Miró created a series of sculptures and ceramics for the garden of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, France, which was completed in 1964.

Experimental style

Miró was among the first artists to develop automatic drawing as a way to undo previous established techniques in painting, and thus, with André Masson, represented the beginning of Surrealism as an art movement. However, Miró chose not to become an official member of the Surrealists in order to be free to experiment with other artistic styles without compromising his position within the group. He pursued his own interests in the art world, ranging from automatic drawing and surrealism, to expressionism and Color Field painting.

Miró's oft-quoted interest in the assassination of painting is derived from a dislike of bourgeoise art of any kind, used as a way to promote propaganda and cultural identity among the wealthy. Specifically, Miró responded to Cubism in this way, which by the time of his quote had become an established art form in France. He is quoted as saying "I will break their guitar," referring to Picasso's paintings, with the intent to attack the popularity and appropriation of Picasso's art by politics.

In an interview with biographer Walter Erben, Miró expressed his dislike for art critics, saying, they "are more concerned with being philosophers than anything else. They form a preconceived opinion, then they look at the work of art. Painting merely serves as a cloak in which to wrap their emaciated philosophical systems."

Four-dimensional painting is a theoretical type of painting Miró proposed in which painting would transcend its two-dimensionality and even the three-dimensionality of sculpture.

In his final decades Miró accelerated his work in different media, producing hundreds of ceramics, including the Wall of the Moon and Wall of the Sun at the UNESCO building in Paris. He also made temporary window paintings (on glass) for an exhibit. In the last years of his life Miró wrote his most radical and least known ideas, exploring the possibilities of gas sculpture and four-dimensional painting.

Late mural

One of Miró’s most important works in the United States is his only glass mosaic mural, Personnage Oiseaux (Bird Characters), 1972-1978. Especially created for Wichita State University’s Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, Kansas. The mural is one of Miró’s largest two-dimensional projects, undertaken when he was 79 and completed when he was 85 years of age. Fabrication of the mural was actually completed in 1977, but Miró did not consider it finished until the installation was complete.

The glass mosaic was the first for Miró. Although he wanted to do others, time was against him and he was not able. He was to come to the dedication of the mural in 1978, but he fell at his studio in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and was unable to travel. His island home and studio in Mallorca served him from 1956 until his death in 1983.

The entire south wall of the Ulrich Museum is the foundation for the 28 ft. by 52 ft (8.53 m. x 15.85 m.) mural, comprised of one million pieces of marble and Venetian glass mounted on specially treated wood, attached to the concrete wall on an aluminum grid. A gift of the artist, donor groups paid for the fabrication by Ateliers Loire of Chartres, France, and for its installation. The Ulrich Museum also acquired the 5 ½ ft. by 12 ft. oil on canvas maquette for the mural, but it has since been sold to establish a fund to support the museum’s acquisitions and any repairs needed to the mural. The entire mural was originally assembled by one artisan at Ateliers Loire using Miró’s maquette as a guide.

Fabricated under Miró’s personal direction and completed in 1977, the 40 panels comprising the mural were shipped to WSU, and the mural was installed on the Ulrich Museum’s façade in 1978. Although it has received little recognition, the mural is a seminal work in the artist’s career, being one of Miró’s largest two-dimensional works in North America and the only type of its kind by the artist.

Late life and death

Miró received a doctorate honoris causa in 1979 from the University of Barcelona.

He died bedridden at his home in Palma, Mallorca on December 25, 1983. He suffered from heart disease and had visited a clinic for respiratory problems two weeks before his death.

Many of his pieces are exhibited today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington and Fundació Joan Miró in Montjuïc, Barcelona; his body is buried nearby, at the Montjuïc cemetery. Today, Miró's paintings sell for between US$250,000 and US$17 million; the latter was the auction price for the La Caresse des étoiles on May 6, 2008 and is the highest amount paid for one of his works.


Joan Miró won several awards in his lifetime. In 1954 he was given the Venice Biennale print making prize, in 1958 the Guggenheim International Award, and in 1980 he received the Gold Medal of Fine Arts from King Juan Carlos of Spain.

In 1981, Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca is established by the Palma de Mallorca City Council.

In pop culture

  • In 2008, Nike released a special colorway of the Air Jordan 7 shoe in Miró's memory. It is based on Woman and Bird, a sculpture in Barcelona.
  • In 2006, the Artists Rights Society (who manage Miró's copyright in the United States) asked Google to remove a customized version of its logo put up to commemorate the artist on what would have been his 113th birthday; the ARS alleged that portions of specific artworks under their protection had been used in the logos, and that they had been used without permission. According to Artist Rights Society President Theodore Feder, "There are underlying copyrights to the works of Miró, and they are putting it up without having the rights". Google complied with the request, but denied that there was any violation of copyright.
  • Joan Miró is mentioned in Paulo Coelho's Eleven Minutes, several times in the fourth section of the novel and twice towards the end. The protagonist of Eleven Minutes relates his style of art to that of Miró's.
  • A statue of Miró's is found on the campus of Springfield University in The Simpsons's episode "That 90s Show."
  • Dave Brubeck Quartet used a painting as an album cover in their 1960's album .
  • Miró's work is referenced in the music video for Steely Dan's "New Frontier".
  • One of the highest-profile chamber music groups in the United States, the Miró Quartet, was founded at the Oberlin Conservatory in 1995.


External links

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