Joan Miró

Spanish, 1893 - 1983
Joan Miró was born in 1893 in Barcelona, Spain. He was born into a family of craftsmen; his father was a goldsmith and his grandfather was a blacksmith. When he came of age, Miró was sent to the Escuela de Comercio where his family intended for him to earn a business degree. Before the completion of his degree, however, Miró fell ill with typhus and depression. This period of convalescence allowed him to pursue formal artistic instruction at the Academia La Lonja. While at La Lonja, Miró studied with Modest Urgell and Josep Pascó. In 1912, Miró entered the atelier of Francesc Galí. Galí recognized Miró’s aptitude for color but lack of drafting skills and he taught the young artist to explore objects blindfolded before painting them. After three years with Galí, Miró left his studio to attend drawing classes at the Círculo Artístico de Sant Lluc. While at Sant Lluc, Miró became a founding member of the Grupo Courbet along with Joseph Llorens Artigas and Joan Prats. During this period, Miró engaged with Fauvism, but his compositions illustrated a distinct clarity of form that separated his work from the movement. During World War I, Barcelona became a vibrant cultural center, attracting members of the European avant-garde. Their presence in Barcelona during this period was critical to the development of Miró’s personal aesthetic. In 1920, Miró moved to Paris where he exhibited at the Galerie la Licorne but failed to sell any work. Disheartened by the exhibition’s commercial failure, Miró returned to his family’s country home in Montroig, where he devoted himself to the reevaluation of his style. Miró began to realize his mature style in 1923, when he started working with recognizable yet abstracted forms. In this manner, his forms functioned as legible symbols and unique signifiers of perceived reality. Throughout the 1920s, Miró was involved with Surrealism and despite his refusal to officially join the movement, he exhibited with them at Galerie Pierre in 1925 along with Picasso. In the late 1920s, Miró began exploring the surface qualities of his paintings and working with collage. Miró married Pilar Juncosa in 1929; their marriage provided the stability in his personal life that allowed Miró to take an entirely new approach to his artistic practice. He began to challenge the theoretical basis of painting and for a period, rejected painting altogether in favor of low-relief sculpture and sculptural assemblages. Miró’s returned to painting in 1934; his devotion to experimentation continued as he began utilizing nontraditional materials such as sand, cardboard and tar in compositions that engaged with new themes of violence and sexuality—a radical departure from his earlier works. Miró utilized his new aesthetic to support the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War. His move to Normandy in 1939 marked the artist’s transition to his mature style; he began producing works characterized by biomorphic and anthropomorphic forms intertwined in floating compositions. In 1941, Miró returned to Spain, and later that same year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held the first major retrospective of his work, exposing it to an international audience. Following his well received retrospective, Miró began expanding his artistic practice once again. In this period of experimentation, Miró retained a focus on two-dimensional arts, working with new media such as print making, gouache, watercolor, pastel, India ink, and, in a particularly adventurous moment, blackberry jam. In the 1950s Miró slowly began his return to ceramics, a medium he had explored briefly in 1941. Miró’s interest in clay revolved primarily around its possibilities as a sculptural material. Miró’s work with ceramics renewed his interest in multi-media work and sculptural assemblage. The 1950s were a prolific period for Miró, during which two distinct approaches to his work became increasingly evident: Miró worked spontaneously at times, allowing the energy of his inspirations to drive him, yet he continued to plan and methodically execute some of his works as well. In the 1960s, Miró returned to the restrained abstract painting style of his youth. Decades later, however, these new works illustrated the subtle grace that his early works lacked. Despite his age, Miró continued to challenge himself with experimentation, adding tapestry design, set design and ceramic murals to his modes of expression. In the last years of his career, Miró’s sculptural vocabulary expanded to include bronze casting in both large and small scale. Prior to his death, Miró witnessed a number of major career retrospectives held in London, Paris and New York. When he died in 1983, the Fundació Joan Miró and the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró were established to perpetuate his legacy and support the advancement of the visual arts. Miró’s oeuvre has been the subject of a number of major international posthumous career retrospectives.
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