By Mike McDougall
Joan Miró, the legendary Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramist, was born in Barcelona in 1893. Miró’s early life was nothing out of the ordinary, at age 14 he enrolled in the “Escuela Superior de Artes Industriales y Bellas Artes” where he studied for three years. After this he took on a job as a clerk In Barcelona but after suffering a nervous breakdown Miró decided that this wasn’t the career for him so he returned to his studies, this time at Francesc Gali’s “Escuela d’Art” where he studied for a further 3 years up until 1915. Miró’s first real breakthrough came when he had an opportunity to display his art in 1917. Local art dealer José Dalman had shown an interest in the young artist’s early work and used his studio for the exhibition.
From this point on Miró’s career as an artist really took off. He made his first visit to Paris in 1919 and moved there a year later to be part of the artistic community in Montparnasse. It was here as well that he met his fellow countryman Pablo Picasso, for the first time. After this Miró would spend the rest of his life dividing his time between Paris and Montroig back in his native Spain. His first solo show in Paris followed quickly in 1921. Paris was the place to be for a young artist at this time, it allowed Miró to meet many other great artists and in 1924 Miró joined Andre Breton’s Surrealist movement. This gave Miró the opportunity to work with fellow surreal artists Andre Masson and Max Ernst and in 1926 he helped Ernst to pioneer his “grattage” technique. Despite his ties with the movement, it has been said that he was always something of an outsider; indeed Breton later went on to say of Miró that he was “the most surrealist of us all”. As Miró developed his new style he claimed that he wanted to “assassinate” and “murder” traditional painting techniques.
By the early 1930’s Miró’s own style was developing and he was starting to get recognised as one of the leading artists of his time. His vibrant colours and almost amoebic shapes are reminiscent of a child’s drawings. On the home front, Miró had also been married to Pilar Juncosa in 1929 and this period also saw the arrival of their first daughter in 1931.
Miró was an artist revered for his adaptability and his use of different media. In 1929 he started his first experiments with lithography and his first etchings and sculptures also date from around this period. These different forms of artistic expression would go on to form a huge part of his work and, like his peer Picasso; it would ultimately make him more accessible as an artist.
The 1936, due to the outbreak of the civil war, Miró decided not the return to Spain; he moved his wife and daughter out to join him in Paris. He would not return to his homeland for nearly five years. Miró continued to experiment with new mediums and in 1944 he produced his first ceramics piece. By now his renown was worldwide and he made his first trip to America in 1947. He returned again frequently and had successful one-man shows at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York in 1951 and 1959.
Some of the highlights in Miró’s glittering career include receiving the 1954 Venice Biennial printmaking prize, in 1958 he was commissioned to do two murals for the UNESCO building in Paris which won the Guggenheim International Award for and in 1980 he received the Gold Medal of Fine Arts from his sovereign, King Juan-Carlos.
Undoubtedly Miró was one of the 20th century’s finest artists – his legacy lives on today and a huge volume of his work can be seen at the Fundacio Joan Miró in Barcelona, a superb museum that is a fine showcase to this extremely talented man.
Article by Mike McDougall. Mike McDougall has five years experience working as a travel writer and marketeer. He is currently working to provide additional content for Babylon-idiomas, a Spanish language school with an excellent presence in Spain and Latin America. This work is covered by a creative commons licence