Mirò and the Earth

Written by  Chiara Vorrasi
Miró’s love for his native Catalonia is celebrated in a wonderful retrospective of his work.
Celebrated as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Joan Miró played a fundamental role in the development of some of the more important art trends of the day such as surrealism and automatism, but was never held prisoner to any of them. The aim of this retrospective held at Palazzo dei Diamanti between 17 February and 25 May 2008 is to fill a gap in the studies on this Catalonian artist. The exhibition Miró: la Terra explores a central theme to his work, his link with the earth, a theme which has not been properly investigated to date. All Miró’s art is marked by a strong love for his native Catalonia, for its countryside, its people, and its traditions. This interpretative key gives us a chance to revisit the entire artistic trajectory of Miró. The exhibition at Palazzo dei Diamanti therefore brings together many of his greatest masterpieces for the first time in Italy. This was achieved thanks to the curator, Tomàs Llorens, and collaboration with the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Madrid. The seeds of the artist’s affection for the countryside were sown during his boyhood holidays in Mont-roig, at the family farm. His early works are dedicated to this world of peasants and the exhibition opens with these, one of which is The Peasant Woman of 1922-1923, showing the inside of a house dominated by a female figure representing the cycle of life and rural work. In the nineteen twenties, Miró alternated summer trips to Mont-roig with winter trips to Paris, where he had a studio. The stimuli offered by Paris led him to discard his naturalistic vocabulary and give birth to a new type of landscape, poetic and metaphorical, in which the image of his own land is subject to a process of metamorphosis. This crucial phase can be seen in the exhibition by the juxtaposition of two masterpieces from 1923-1924 The Tilled Field and Catalan Landscape. This creative period reaches its highest expression in the paintings known as the “dream paintings” which demonstrate Miró’s contribution to Surrealism, such as the Catalan Peasant with a Guitar (1924). The exhibition also shows two of the six canvases painted at Mont-roig in the summer of 1927. Mirò uses these large paintings to evoke a primeval Catalonia, giving shape to his own idea of the creation of the world. In the period between the twenties and the early thirties, the attraction of the earth element awakened a new interest by Mirò in the use of materials, and their visible and tactile properties which became essential components of his language. The outcome of this reflection is the so-called “anti-painting” comprising collages, assemblages and constructions originating from the juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements. Painting came back to the fore in the “wild paintings” from the mid-thirties, painted during a long trip to Catalonia. Mirò used a palette of bright, angry tones during this phase to create landscapes populated by mysterious, deformed creatures, which can be understood to reflect his feelings on the Spanish Civil War. Similar dramatic tension can also be noted in a series of paintings on masonite from the summer of 1936. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Mirò left France and came back to Spain. Here, he began working with ceramics, using the wooden oven firing technique, and began to experiment with new material again. Three-dimensional works such as Woman (1946) and Composition with Ropes (1950) attest to the creative vitality of a mature artist, crowned by international success. Much of the exhibition is given over to works made after 1956 when he moved to his big new studio in Palma di Majorca. Mirò concentrated on the themes of femininity and sexuality themes in this period. The exhibition closes with a rare opportunity to see a masterpiece Figures and Birds in the Night from 1974, a mural on canvas that evokes the mysterious side of nature.

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