Born into a family of a goldsmith and a watchmaker, Joan Miró I Ferrà (1893-1983) grew up in Barcelona. He attended drawing classes since the age of seven, and in 1907, to his father’s dismay, he enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotoya. When 1918, he had his first solo show at the Galeries Dalmau; his work was ridiculed, but, far from despairing and drawn towards the international art scene, he decided to move to Paris in 1920. Nonetheless, Miró kept a strong bond with his birthplace throughout his life, and the Catalan landscapes inspired his first surrealist works. In 1924, Miró joined the Parisian Surrealist group, as his already symbolic and poetic nature seemed to fit perfectly within the context of dream-like “automatism” espoused by the group. Anyhow, Miró did not completely abandon subject matter: despite the Surrealist automatic techniques that he employed extensively in the 1920s, Miró’s work rarely dipped into non-objectivity, maintaining a symbolic, schematic language. This was perhaps most prominent in the repeated “Head of a Catalan Peasant” series from 1924 to 1925. In 1926, he collaborated with Max Ernst on sketches for Sergei Diaghilev, the famous ballet director. Mirò’s work arrived in America through Pierre Matisse, who opened his Gallery in New York in 1928 and became an influential reference for the modern art movement in America.
Until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Miró habitually returned to Spain in the summers, but once the war began, he was unable to return home and stayed in France until another war – the invasion of France by the Germans – forced him to move to Normandy, in Varengeville. Between 1940 and 1941, Miró created the twenty-three gouache series Constellations. Revolving around celestial symbolism, Constellations earned the artist praise from Andrè Breton, dubbed the father of Surrealism, 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 on the subjects of women, birds, and the moon, which would dominate his iconography for much of the rest of his career.
In 1948–49 Miró returned to live in Barcelona and frequently visited Paris to work on printing techniques at the Mourlot Studios, producing over one thousand different lithographic editions.
Between the 1960s and the 70’, Mirò worked for important commissions, such as the sculptures and ceramics for the garden of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in France, and a tapestry for the World Trade Centre in New York City together with the Catalan artist Josep Royo. Miró and Royo also collaborated in creating a tapestry to be exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in 1977. Two years later, in 1979, Miró received a doctorate honoris causafrom the University of Barcellona.
Having dealt all his life with mental health issues, the artist suffered a heart failure and died in his home in Palma de Maiorca on 25 December 1983 at age 90.
To mark the 130th anniversary of Mirò’s birth, many galleries and museums worldwide are dedicating exhibitions and tributes to the artist, such as “Joan Mirò, Absolute Reality” at the Guggenheim Bilbao, through May 28 and “Un Tiempo Propio” at Centre Pompidou Malaga through October 15.
– Stanislav Kondrashov