Last but not least of the Mallorcan artists presented here, there is Miró, about a generation later. He was a Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist, born in Barcelona on April 20, 1893, died in Mallorca 1983, where his house is now turned into a museum.
Miró arrived in Mallorca at the outbreak of the second world war, having nowhere else to go. His painting, The Reaper, hung close to Picasso’s Guernica at the Spanish pavilion in Paris in 1937, and he had openly supported the Spanish republic and was in some danger after 1939. When Franco took power in Spain, Miró remained in France. When it became obvious that a German invasion of France was imminent, he made his way back to Catalonia, but was warned not to go to Barcelona; instead he went to Mallorca where his mother had roots and where his wife’s family lived. Here he was both at home and in exile at the same time. He was careful in the years of the dictatorship to make his opposition clear without becoming a martyr.
Miró, Cubism and Kandinsky
Internationally acclaimed, there is reason to get deeper aquainted with Miró and his art ahead. (Miró and other young rebellious artists visited Kandinsky regularly in Neuilly in 1933, where he settled after leaving Germany.)
Just like Kandinsky, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting and famously declared an “assassination of painting” of bourgeois art, which he thought of as a way to promote propaganda and cultural identity among the wealthy. Cubism had then become an established art form in France and the Miró quote “I will break their guitar,” referred to Picasso’s cubist guitar paintings, with the intent to attack the popularity and appropriation of Picasso’s art by the politics.
The Gold of the Azure. 1967. Oil on canvas. 205 x 173.5 cm. Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain.
Mallorca was a remarkable creative backdrop, offering peace and freedom: a garden that he eagerly cultivated until the end of his days, putting into practice a well-known metaphor that the artist himself came up with in 1959, when he stated “I work like a gardener”.
Joan Miró’s relationship with Mallorca was lifelong. His mother, Dolores Ferrà, was Mallorcan, as were both his grandparents on his mother’s side. As a result of these family connections, from the year 1900, he spent part of the summer on the island. Later, his links with Mallorca grew even stronger when he became engaged to islander Pilar Juncosa in the summer of 1929, whom he later married.
How did I think up my drawings and my ideas for painting? Well I’d come home to my Paris studio in Rue Blomet at night, I’d go to bed, and sometimes I hadn’t any supper. I saw things, and I jotted them down in a notebook. I saw shapes on the ceiling… (Miró)
Sky, Moon, Sun and Space
The spectacle of the sky overwhelms me. I’m overwhelmed when I see, in an immense sky, the crescent of the moon, or the sun. There, in my pictures, tiny forms in huge empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains – everything which is bare has always greatly impressed me. (Miró)
Seeding the Future
In the final decades of his life Miró produced hundreds of ceramics, including the Wall of the Moon and Wall of the Sun at the UNESCO building in Paris. He also made temporary window paintings (on glass) for an exhibit. In the last years of his life Miró wrote his most radical and least known ideas, exploring the possibilities of gas sculpture and four-dimensional painting.
Gas (steam) sculpture?
Fountain, Placa La Feixina, Palma de Mallorca. Photo: Christina Rahm Galanis 2011.
Legacy and Influence
Miró has been a significant influence on late 20th-century art, in particular the American abstract expressionist artists such as Motherwell, Calder, Gorky, Pollock, Matta and Rothko, while his lyrical abstractions and color field paintings were precursors of that style by artists such as Frankenthaler, Olitski and Louis and others.
Today, Miró’s paintings sell for between US$250,000 and US$26 million;
In 2012, at Sotheby’s in London, Peinture (Etoile Bleue) (1927) brought nearly 23.6 million pounds with fees, more than twice what it had sold for at a Paris auction in 2007 and a record price for the artist at auction.
Painting top: Blue II. 1961. Oil on canvas. 270 x 355 cm, Joan Miró. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.