Galerie Fabien Boulakia;
Estate of Donald Simon (Purchased from above, July 20, 1985)
Born into a family of a goldsmith and a watchmaker, Joan Miró grew up in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood of Barcelona. He began drawing classes at the age of seven at a private school. To the dismay of his father, he enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotja in 1907. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc and he had his first solo show in 1918 at the Galeries Dalmau, Inspired by Fauve and Cubist exhibitions in Barcelona and abroad, Miró was drawn towards the arts community that was gathering in Montparnasse and in 1920 moved to Paris, but continued to spend his summers in Catalonia.
His early art, like that of the similarly influenced Fauves and Cubists, was inspired by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. The resemblance of Miró’s work to that of the intermediate generation of the avant-garde has led scholars to dub this period his Catalan Fauvist period.
A few years after Miró’s 1918 Barcelona solo exhibition he finished a number of paintings that he had begun on his parents’ summer home and farm in Mont-roig del Camp. One such painting, The Farm, showed a transition to a more individual style of painting and certain nationalistic qualities. Ernest Hemingway, who later purchased the piece, compared the artistic accomplishment to James Joyce’s Ulysses and described it by saying, “It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there. No one else has been able to paint these two very opposing things.” Miró annually returned to Mont-roig and developed a symbolism and nationalism that would stick with him throughout his career.
In 1924, Miró joined the Surrealist group. The already symbolic and poetic nature of Miró’s work, as well as the dualities and contradictions inherent to it, fit well within the context of dream-like automatism espoused by the group.
Until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Miró habitually returned to Spain in the summers. Once the war began, he was unable to return home. Unlike many of his surrealist contemporaries, Miró had previously preferred to stay away from explicitly political commentary in his work. Though a sense of (Catalan) nationalism pervaded his earliest surreal landscapes and Head of a Catalan Peasant, it was not until Spain’s Republican government commissioned him to paint the mural, The Reaper, for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exhibition that Miró’s work took on a politically charged meaning.
In 1939, Miró relocated to Varengeville in Normandy, and on 20 May of the following year, as Germans invaded Paris, he narrowly fled to Spain for the duration of the Vichy Regime’s rule. In Varengeville, Palma, and Mont-roig, between 1940 and 1941, Miró created the twenty-three gouache series Constellations. Revolving around celestial symbolism, Constellations earned the artist praise from André Breton, who seventeen years later wrote a series of poems, named after and inspired by Miró’s series. Features of this work revealed a shifting focus to the subjects of women, birds, and the moon, which would dominate his iconography for much of the rest of his career.
In 1979 Miró received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Barcelona. The artist, who suffered from heart failure, died in his home in Palma (Majorca) in 1983. To this day, Miró’s freewheeling artistic expression continues to be a generating spark for evolving artists and art movements.