Joan Miró

BIOGRAPHY


Early in his career, Miró primarily painted still-lifes, landscapes, and genre images. Influences ranging from the folk art and Romanesque church frescoes of his native Catalan region in Spain to 17th-century Dutch realism were eventually superseded by more contemporary ones: Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism captivated the young artist, who had relocated to Paris in 1921. His exposure to the ideas of André Breton and his Surrealist circle prompted Miró to make radical changes to his style, although the artist cannot be said to have identified consistently with a single style. Rather, his artistic career may be characterized as one of persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity. Miró's signature colorful, biomorphic forms, roughly geometric shapes, and marginally recognizable objects are expressed in multiple media, from ceramics and engravings to large bronze installations.


Joan Miró was born in Spain in 1893 to a family of craftsmen. His father, Miguel, was a watchmaker and goldsmith, while his grandfathers were cabinetmakers and blacksmiths. Perhaps in keeping with his family's artistic inclinations, Miró exhibited a strong love of drawing at an early age; according to biographers, he was not particularly inclined toward academics. Rather, Miró pursued art-making and studied landscape and decorative art at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (the Llotja) in Barcelona. Despite his professed desire to forge a career in the arts, at the behest of his parents, Miró attended, the School of Commerce from 1907-10. His relatively brief foray into the business world, characterized by constant study, instilled a strong sense of order and a robust work ethic in Miró but at a very high cost. Following what has been characterized as, in essence, a nervous breakdown, Miró abandoned his business career and subsequently devoted himself fully to making art.


In 1912, Miró enrolled in an art academy in Barcelona. The school taught Miró about modern art movements in Western Europe and introduced him to contemporary Catalan poets. Miró was also encouraged to go out into the countryside in the midst of the landscapes he wished to paint and to study the artistic practices of his contemporaries. Between 1912 and 1920, Miró painted still-lifes, nudes, and landscapes. His style during this period in his early career has been referred to as "poetic realism."


In 1920 Miró made his first trip to Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso. From this time, Miró divided his time between Paris and Montroig, Spain. In Paris he associated with the poets Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, and Tristan Tzara and participated in Dada activities. Dalmau organized Miró’s first solo show in Paris, at the Galerie la Licorne in 1921. His work was included in the Salon d’Automne of 1923. In 1924 Miró joined the Surrealist group. His solo show at the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1925 was a major Surrealist event; Miró was included in the first Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre that same year. He visited the Netherlands in 1928 and began a series of paintings inspired by Dutch masters. That year he also executed his first papiers collés (pasted papers) and collages. In 1929 he started his experiments in lithography, and his first etchings date from 1933. During the early 1930s he made Surrealist sculptures incorporating painted stones and found objects. In 1936 Miró left Spain because of the civil war; he returned in 1941. Also in 1936 Miró was included in the exhibitions Cubism and Abstract Art and Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The following year he was commissioned to create a monumental work for the Paris World’s Fair.


Miró’s first major museum retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1941. That year Miró began working in ceramics with Josep Lloréns y Artigas and started to concentrate on prints; from 1954 to 1958 he worked almost exclusively in these two mediums. He received the Grand Prize for Graphic Work at the Venice Biennale in 1954, and his work was included in the first Documenta exhibition in Kassel the following year. In 1958 Miró was given a Guggenheim International Award for murals for the UNESCO building in Paris. The following year he resumed painting, initiating a series of mural-sized canvases. During the 1960s he began to work intensively in sculpture. Miró retrospectives took place at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, in 1962, and the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1974. In 1978 the Musée National d’Art Moderne exhibited over five hundred works in a major retrospective of his drawings. Miró died on December 25, 1983, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.