Modern Masters Artist Profile: Joan Miró

Born in Barcelona in 1893, Joan Miró began sketching as a child, filling notebooks with his landscapes drawings. Sadly, in 1910 he was forced by his father to give up art altogether and thus stopped attending classes at the art academy La Llotja and became a clerk at a pharmacy instead. However, by 1911 he decided to go against family wishes and paint full-time. As a struggling artist, Miró was under such severe financial hardship that he would often go without eating for a day. However, in Miró’s eyes this was not a bad thing. He described coming home at the end of a day after not eating and, in a kind of trance, drawing forms that were the genesis of his paintings. He claimed that to start his artwork, he needed a “shock to escape from reality.” Hallucinations brought on by hunger were the perfect “shock” for Miró.

After the images appeared, he divided the canvas into four equal quadrants, using one vertical and one horizontal line. He further divided each quadrant by placing a vertical line down the center and diagonal lines from corner to corner. He then set about arranging his figures throughout this organized grid.

One characteristic of Miró’s work is the vast number of figures within his paintings. He once commented, “In a picture, it should be possible to discover new things every time you see it. But you can look at a picture for a week together and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”

Update: Some of the images referred to in this blog post have been removed following the close of Modern Masters at the Denver Art Museum. Please visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Collection search page to find the related artworks. This appeared on this post while the exhibition was open:

Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), Le Carnaval d'Arlequin (Carnival of Harlequin), 1924-25. Oil on canvas; support: 26 x 35-5/8 in. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1940. © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris 2014. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Holly Westwood was an intern in the education department at the Denver Art Museum in 2013.

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