Dr. Wilda Reviews: Miro at the Seattle Art Museum

18 Feb

Moi was privileged to attend the press screening of “The Experience of Seeing: Late Career Paintings and Sculptures by Joan Miro” at the Seattle Art Museum. Here are the details for the exhibition.

Miró: The Experience of Seeing

February 13–May 26, 2014

SAM Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries

The short review is poetry in the form of painting and sculpture with perhaps a hint of politics thrown in.

Art Story.org provides background about the artist:

SYNOPSIS Early in his career, Miró primarily painted still-lifes, landscapes, and genre images. Influences ranging from the folk art and Romanesque church frescoes of his native Catalan region in Spain to 17th-century Dutch realism were eventually superseded by more contemporary ones: Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism captivated the young artist, who had relocated to Paris in 1921. His exposure to the ideas of André Breton and his Surrealist circle prompted Miró to make radical changes to his style, although the artist cannot be said to have identified consistently with a single style. Rather, his artistic career may be characterized as one of persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity. Miró’s signature colorful, biomorphic forms, roughly geometric shapes, and marginally recognizable objects are expressed in multiple media, from ceramics and engravings to large bronze installations.

KEY IDEAS Conducting his own Surrealism-inspired exploration, Miró invented a new kind of relational pictorial space in which carefully rendered, self-contained objects issuing strictly from the artist’s imagination are juxtaposed with simple, recognizable forms – a sickle moon, a simplified dog, a ladder. There is the sense that they have always coexisted both in the material realm and in the shallow pictorial space of Miró’s art.

Miró’s art never became fully non-objective. Rather than resorting to complete abstraction, the artist devoted his career to exploring various means by which to dismantle traditional precepts of representation. Miró’s radical, inventive style was a critical contributor in the early twentieth-century avant-garde journey toward increasing and then complete abstraction.

Miró balanced the kind of spontaneity and automatism encouraged by the Surrealists with meticulous planning and rendering to achieve finished works that, because of their precision, seemed plausibly representational despite their considerable level of abstraction.

Miró often worked with a somewhat limited palette, yet the colors he used were bold and expressive. His chromatic explorations, which emphasized the potential of fields of unblended color to respond to one another, provided inspiration for a generation of color field painters.

Artists have traditionally confined themselves to visual expression in a single medium with occasional forays into other materials. However, Miró was, in a sense, a modern renegade who refused to limit himself in this regard. While he explored certain themes such as that of Mother and Child repeatedly throughout his long career, Miró did so in a variety of media from painting and printmaking to sculpture and ceramics, often achieving surprising and disparate results.

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Joan Miró was born in Spain in 1893 to a family of craftsmen. His father, Miguel, was a watchmaker and goldsmith, while his grandfathers were cabinetmakers and blacksmiths. Perhaps in keeping with his family’s artistic inclinations, Miró exhibited a strong love of drawing at an early age; according to biographers, he was not particularly inclined toward academics. Rather, Miró pursued art-making and studied landscape and decorative art at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (the Llotja) in Barcelona. Despite his professed desire to forge a career in the arts, at the behest of his parents, Miró attended, the School of Commerce from 1907-10. His relatively brief foray into the business world, characterized by constant study, instilled a strong sense of order and a robust work ethic in Miró but at a very high cost. Following what has been characterized as, in essence, a nervous breakdown, Miró abandoned his business career and subsequently devoted himself fully to making art.


Early Training In 1912, Miró enrolled in an art academy in Barcelona. The school taught Miró about modern art movements in Western Europe and introduced him to contemporary Catalan poets. Miró was also encouraged to go out into the countryside in the midst of the landscapes he wished to paint and to study the artistic practices of his contemporaries. Between 1912 and 1920, Miró painted still-lifes, nudes, and landscapes. His style during this period in his early career has been referred to as “poetic realism.” It was during this phase of his career that Miró developed an interest in the bold, bright colors of the French Fauve painters and the fractured, geometric compositions of the Cubists.

Mature Period  In 1919, Miró moved to Paris to continue his artistic development. Due to considerable financial hardship, his life in Paris was difficult at first. When discussing his life during those first lean, early years in Paris, the artist quipped, “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 had any supper.” It seems that physical deprivation enlivened the young Miró’s imagination. “I saw things,” he explained, “and I jotted them down in a notebook. I saw shapes on the ceiling…”

Artistically, Miró was drawn to the Dada and Surrealist movements. He became friends with the Surrealist writer André Breton, forming a relationship that lasted for many years. The Surrealists were most active in Paris during the 1920s, having formally joined forces in 1924 with the publication of their Surrealist Manifesto. Their members, led by Breton, promoted “pure psychic automatism,” which heavily informed Miró’s work. While the Surrealists experimented with the irrational in art and writing, Miró’s art manifested these dream-like qualities, becoming increasingly biomorphic, enigmatic, and innovative.

To his utter disappointment, Miró’s first solo show in Paris in 1921 was a complete disaster; he did not sell a single work. However, a determined Miró went on to participate in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925. He collaborated with the group’s members in the creation of larger commissions, working with Max Ernst in 1926 on the creation of Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet set designs. In his own work at the time, Miró painted fantastic and bizarre interpretations of his dreams.

Miró married Pilar Juncosa in 1929, and their only child, Dolores, was born in 1931. His career flourished during this time. In 1934, Miró’s art began to be exhibited in both France and the United States. He was still residing in Paris when war broke out in Europe, and by 1941 Miró was forced to flee to Mallorca with his family. Perhaps not surprisingly, warfare and political tension were prominent themes in his art during this period; his canvases became increasingly grotesque and brutal. Concurrently, Miró’s first retrospective was held at the MoMA in New York City to great acclaim. His renown continued to grow both in America and Europe, culminating in a large-scale mural commission in Cincinnati in 1947. Miró’s simplified forms and his life-long impulse toward experimentation inspired a generation of American artists, the Abstract Expressionists, whose emphasis on non-representational art signaled a major shift in artistic production in the U.S.

In the 1950s, Miró began dividing his time between Spain and France. A large exhibition of 60 of Miró’s works was held at the Gallerie Maeght in Paris and subsequently at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1953. By the mid-1950s, Miró had begun working on a much larger scale, both on canvas and in ceramics. In 1959, Miró along with Salvador Dalí, Enrique Tabara, and Eugenio Granell participated in Homage to Surrealism, an exhibition in Spain organized by André Breton. The 1960s were a prolific and adventurous time for Miró as he continued to break away from his own patterns, in some instances revisiting and reinterpreting some of his older works. While he never altered the essence of his style, his later work is recognized as more mature, distilled, and refined in terms of form.

Late Period and Death  As Miró aged, he continued to receive many accolades and public commissions. In 1974, he was commissioned to create a tapestry for New York’s World Trade Center, demonstrating his achievements as an internationally renowned artist as well as his place in popular culture. He received an honorary degree from the University of Barcelona in 1979. Miró died at his home in 1983, a year after completing Woman and Bird, a grand public sculpture for the city of Barcelona; the work was, in a sense, the culmination of a prolific career so profoundly integral to the development of Modern art.

LEGACY Testing the limits of representation and relying on the imagination rather than the objective world, Miró identified a sort of aesthetic point of no return and instead blazed a trail upon which subsequent artists would tread soon thereafter. Along with other Dada and Surrealist artists like Jean Arp and Yves Tanguy, Miró explored the possibility of creating an entirely new visual vocabulary for art that, while not divorced from the objective world, could exist outside of it. Rather than transitioning to complete abstraction, Miró’s biomorphic forms remained within the bounds of objectivity. However, they were forms of pure invention and were made expressive and imbued with meaning through their juxtaposition with other forms and the artist’s use of color. Much has been made of his influence on the color field painters – Motherwell, Gorky, Pollock, and Rothko, among others, on Calder, who was a close friend of Miró, and, more recently, on designers Paul Rand, Lucienne Day, and Julian Hatton.                                                             http://www.theartstory.org/artist-miro-joan.htm

Judith Flanders wrote in the 2011 Telegraph article, Joan Miró, Tate Modern, Seven magazine review: The Tate brings us a new Miró: the covertly political painter:

 Joan Miró has long been presented as Surrealism’s child: its painter of innocence, of simplicity, joy and whimsical charm. Perhaps that is why this Tate show is Britain’s first large-scale exhibition of his work in half a century: in the art-world, pain equals importance, and Miró just doesn’t seem serious enough.

This would have been a good starting-point, for joy and simplicity are surely worth examining.

Evidently not. Instead the 150 works here have been chosen to illustrate a surprising thesis: that Miró was, covertly, a political painter. The pictures cluster roughly in three groups: during the First World War and just after, on the artist’s first trip to Paris; during the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War; and around the 1968 uprisings.

The first section is the most unexpected and most rewarding. Seven of the nine images are from collections in six different cities, and the other two are privately owned: exhibiting them together is a major coup for the Tate.

Related Articles

‘Extraordinary’ Miro collection to be sold

21 Jan 2014


Joan Miró: a Catalan surrealist’s life in art

02 Apr 2011



This exhibit was carefully edited to show more of the interplay between the poetry, the observation and interaction of nature with the human form. There was emphasis about what Miro learned from trips to Japan and the influence of his study of Calligraphy. Past exhibits of his work give more of a nod to the political aspects of his art.

One of the interesting parts of the exhibit is an interactive section which will delight the tech-savvy. The selection of art presented at SAM is simply stunning and shows a master at the top of his game. Children will love the bright colors and the simplicity as well as the tech interface. Those who have been around longer understand that simple is often more complex than it looks.


Filtering Miró’s Work Through a Political Sieve: ‘Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape,’ at National Gallery


Catalogue of Miro works for sale


Joan Miró, Spanish – Catalan artist – YouTube

► 4:14► 4:14                www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrxbTojC1TM

Joan Miro

Fundacio Miro

Here is the press release from SAM:

This exhibition, drawn entirely from the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, offers a fresh assessment of the late period in Miró’s work—a body of work that audiences in the United States have not had the opportunity to fully appreciate. The exhibition brings together over 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures made in the period between 1963 and 1983 that testify to the artist’s ingenuity and inventiveness to the very end of his life. Bold and colorful paintings employing his personal visual language alternate with near-abstract compositions. Although Miró had experimented with sculpture in earlier periods, it is only in the late years that painting and sculpture stand in direct dialogue with each other—a principal feature of this exhibition.

The paintings and sculptures in the exhibition plumb the process of making art, part of Miró’s concern since his earliest works. In his quest to transcend easel painting, Miró expanded pictorial space across vast canvas fields, using an increasingly simplified language to turn accidental or fortuitous motifs into calligraphic signs. In his sculpture, the inspiration of found objects is more overt, linking the work to his Surrealist explorations of the 1920s as well as the sculptural inventions of his contemporary, Pablo Picasso. Miró also employs many of the same forms and signs in his sculpture, as in his paintings, creating a synergy between the two bodies of work. His work during these mature years represents a personal language where painting and sculpture are equally valued.

–Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture & Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

This exhibition is organized by the Seattle Art Museum and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

The Seattle presentation of this exhibition is made possible with critical funding provided by SAM Fund for Special Exhibitions.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Major Sponsors


Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS)

Supporting Sponsors

Honorary Consulate of Spain in Seattle

Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Endowment

Washington State Arts Commission/National Endowment for the Arts

Cultural Partner

The Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C.

Broadcast Media Sponsor


Miró Corporate Circle

Carbures Group

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Dragados USA

Mtorres America

Plain Concepts

Tourist Office of Spain in Los Angeles

Print Media Sponsor

The Stranger

Official Hotel Sponsor

Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

Promotional Partner

Visit Seattle

Contemporary and modern art programs at SAM are supported by a generous group of donors in honor of Bagley Wright.

Woman, Bird and Star (Homage to Picasso), February 15, 1966/April 3-8, 1973, Joan Miró (Spanish 1893–1983), oil on canvas, 96 7/16 x 66 15/16 in., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. © 2013 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Reproduction, including downloading of Joan Miró works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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