Joan Miro is known for his playful art. His emblematic images make a naive, childlike impression at first sight. In contrast to the image of his art, he was a solid, hard-working man who preferred to come to gallery exhibitions in dark business suits.
First Publication: September 2001
Latest Update: April 2014
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Joan was born as the son of a goldsmith and jewelry maker in Barcelona in Northern Spain. He studied arts at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts and at the Academia Gali. His parents would rather have seen him taking a job as a serious businessman.
He even took business classes in 1907 parallel to his art classes. Joan worked as an accountant for nearly two years until he had some kind of a nervous breakdown. His parents finally accepted their son's choice of a career as an artist without giving him too much support.
In the beginnings of his career he dabbled in different painting styles that were fashionable at the turn of the century like Fauvism and Cubism.
In 1920 Miro made the first of a series of trips to Paris. In 1921 he settled permanently in the French capital. He met Pablo Picasso and many of the other great painters and artists living in Paris - the center of arts in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century.
From 1924 on, Miro joined the circle of the Surrealist theorist Andre Breton. His painting style took a turn to Surrealism. His comrades were Andre Masson and Max Ernst. But he never integrated himself completely into this group dominated by Andre Breton. He remained an outsider.
By 1930 the artist had developed his own style. Miro art is hard to describe. It is characterized by brilliant colors combined with simplified forms that remind of drawings made by children at the age of five. Joan Miro art integrates elements of Catalan folk art. He liked to compare his visual arts to poetry.
In the 1930s the artist's fame and recognition became international. From 1940 to 1948 the he was back in Spain. During this period he experimented in different media - sculpture, ceramics and murals.
In 1947, he came to the United States for the first time. He had several own-man shows. The most important one was a retrospective at the MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1951 and in 1959. In 1954 he won a prize at the Venice Biennale. In 1968 the artist finished a commission for two large ceramic murals at the UNESCO buildings in Paris.
Miro was a disciplined hard working man. He spoke little and looked like the perfect bourgois. He was orderly, reliable and punctilious. Nothing of him had any touch of a bohemian.
He was also a modest man. In spite of international recognition, his financial situation was tense. He dreamed of a large studio where he could fulfill the numerous art projects and ideas that he collected in a little notebook. After World War II his time had finally come. His first trip to the USA pushed his popularity and the market value of his art work. And the modest little man pushed the galleries to give him a fairer share out of the sales. In a letter to gallery owners he wrote:
"What I will no longer accept is the mediocre life of a modest little gentleman."
In 1956 Miro could finally move into the villa of his dreams. Located in Palma de Majorca and built by the architect Josep Lluis Sert. The new home was built in an ultra-modern style typical for the avant-garde architecture of the fifties. In 1992 it was transformed into the Miro Museum open for the public.
Miro was a prolific print maker. He worked in etchings and lithographs. And Miro is among those modern artists like Picasso or Chagall whose works were also published in large print editions targeted at a larger audience. Thus original Miro art is available even for art lovers with a limited budget.
Author: Dieter Wanczura