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7 stories about things that inspired Joan Miró

  4 
Hunger hallucinations, playing with fire, tons of clay and a single woman — Joan Miró found inspiration in everything. Reality was a convenient starting point for him for long and extremely exciting journeys into a world somewhere between heaven and earth.
Miró only got the opportunity to pursue art after experiencing a nervous breakdown. As a caring, forward-thinking and rational person, Joan Miró's father did not consider his son’s infatuation to be a reliable solution. If a teenager, who has no interest in school sciences, is determined to become an artist, he needed to provide him with at least some mininal future. Therefore, 14-year-old Miró went to study at two educational institutions in Barcelona at once: the School of Industrial and Fine Arts (at his own request) and the Business School (as his father insisted). And some time later, he also began to earn money.
This campaign to ensure a bright future for the child ended in complete failure. Unable to withstand the stress, the dreamy, introverted teenager first collapsed with a nervous breakdown, and soon caught typhoid fever. He could hardly bear the disease, so the question of his professional future was decisively pushed into the background. The Miró family bought a seaside farm in the small town of Mont-roig del Camp. Here, Joan gained strength, recovered from his illness, and got the opportunity, finally, to engage only in drawing and painting.
Joan (Joan) Miro. Farm
Farm
1922, 132×147 cm
Miró's imagination was often driven by hunger. Ernest Hemingway recalled: "When I first met Miró, he had very little money and very little food, and he worked all day for nine months on a large and wonderful painting called The Farm. It was the early 1920s. Miró has just arrived in Paris. A young Catalan artist, who had an art education and experienced an only ridiculed exhibition in his native Barcelona. When the already world famous artist Miró was asked by journalists about the sources of inspiration for his early paintings, he answered: "Where did I get the ideas for my drawings? Well, I used to come to my Paris studio on the Rue Blomet in the evening, went to bed, sometimes I didn’t have my dinner. I had visions that I sketched in my notebook. I saw images on the ceiling."
Joan (Joan) Miro. Carnival Of Harlequin
In Miró's memoirs, the 1925 painting "The Harlequin’s Carnival" is just one of those that were invented during hunger hallucinations.
When the half-starved Miró finished "The Farm", Ernest Hemingway decided to buy the painting at all costs. The artist refused to part with it, then Hemingway promised to collect 5 thousand francs in the near future and pay for "The Farm" this sum, fantastic for both of them. "It was 4,250 francs more than I ever paid for a painting," said the American. The last day of the promised payment came — and Hemingway still did not have enough money. Then he went to all the famous bars in Paris and borrowed tiny amounts from everyone whom he knew at least a little. "The Farm" was bought and remained in the writer’s personal collection until his death.
Miró lived with one woman for 54 years. Pilar Juncosa was a Joan’s distant relative. His grandmother and her mother were each other’s cousins. Pilar’s family lived in Mallorca, and Joan’s family often spent their summers there. The children grew up together.

They married in 1929, and two years later, María Dolores, their only daughter, was born. Miró's lifestyle changed little from year to year. His life was subject to strict order, there was no room for extravagance in it. He lived quietly and modestly, according to a daily routine. Against the background of his secular and outrageous contemporaries (Picasso, Dalí, Ernst and many others), the story of his marital fidelity may look old-fashioned, implausible and almost boring.

  • Joan Miró and Pilar Juncosa in Mont-Roig, 1950. Source: miromallorca.com
  • Irving Penn. Joan Miró and his daughter, 1948. Source: www.invaluable.com
Painting has always been the main exciting adventure in his life. He trampled and burned his paintings, tried many techniques, worked with ceramics, engravings, textiles; in his artistic fantasies, he climbed into such worlds where reality no longer mattered and from where it was difficult to find a starting point, even looking back. In his paintings, he placed stairs leading to the sky over and over again. Exactly 2 o’clock, Pilar called for dinner, he went out into the garden and sat down opposite the woman whom he had loved all his life and who made him happy, wearing slippers and a blue smock stained with paints. And he waited for dinner to be served. Every day, exactly at 2 o’clock.

"My wife Pilar is my ideal partner. Without her, I would remain an orphan, lost in this world, forever," said Miró. The nameless, conventional woman, whom he painted more often than the birds and the moon, than the sky and stars, the woman was the main goddess of the Miró's artistic world. And everything he knew about the Woman, he knew from Pilar.
Joan Miró. The Wall of the Moon, 1957. Source: foto-parigi.blogspot.com
Miró created two murals for the UNESCO building. This was the first monumental decorative work of the artist. In 1957, the UNESCO Committee for Architecture and Art appealed to 11 artists with a proposal to create a work that would decorate the building of the organization. Miró had to work on the frescoes for two walls.

This was the time when the artist became passionate about ceramics: "At first I was fascinated by the splendour of ceramics. It looked like a stream of sparks. But besides, this was a battle with the elements: earth, fire … If you are going to do pottery, you must be able to tame fire," said Miró.

Then he decided that his future frescoes for UNESCO would be ceramic mosaics. Together with his friend ceramist Josep Llorens Artigas, he began his work on the first ceramic frescoes in his life (there would be many of them later — in airports, museums). 4 tons of clay, 30 kilograms of dyes, 25 tons of wood, 35 baking sessions. When the tiles were ready, Miró laid them out on the floor and applied pigment on them with a huge palm leaf brush. It was a daunting task. Firstly, there was no room available to the artist to contain the entire panel, thus he had to paint separate blocks, keeping the complete picture in mind. Secondly, the pigment acquired the desired colour only after firing, and at the time of application, all colours looked the same, dark grey. To maintain the overall pattern, Miró applied the experience of the Renaissance artists — he made cardboards, according to which he first applied the contour of the future pattern to the tile surface.

"The Wall of the Sun" and "The Wall of the Moon" are two ceramic frescoes, which were delivered to Paris in the form of disparate tiles in several batches. And he compiled them into a single picture on the site. During the installation of the frescoes, Miró lived at the construction site and supervised each stage.
Joan Miró. Burnt Canvas 4, 1974. Source: www.dailyartmagazine.com
Miró collaborated with fire to create a series of paintings. The artist said that the most exciting thing about setting fire to paintings is the unpredictable result. "I love working with fire … It does not so much destroy as it transforms, it affects a burning object with inventive power, it wields magic." At the end of 1973, Miró created 5 canvases, following his own instructions: he applied paint, lay on the floor, sprinkled with gasoline, set fire keeping a wet mop ready to extinguish in time, then pierced where it was necessary, cut rags where it was necessary, took a blowtorch for point fire setting, applied paint with his fingers.

At 80 years old, Miró has completed the promise he made at the age of 30. "I want to kill painting!" he said then to one of the journalists. Miró had several reasons for such artistic extremism: traditional painting was lifeless and searches in this area had reached a dead end, and in addition, art was commercialized and the understanding of its value was shifting towards correct investments concept. Miró said to one of the journalists: "I burned these canvases to send to hell all those who say that these pictures are worth a fortune once again."

Photo: Francesc Català-Roca. Miró looking through one of his burnt canvases, 1973. Source: www.sothebys.com

Miró collaborated with fire to create a series of paintings. The artist said that the most exciting thing about setting fire to paintings is the unpredictable result. "I love working with fire … It does not so much destroy as it transforms, it affects a burning object with inventive power, it wields magic." At the end of 1973, Miró created 5 canvases, following his own instructions: he applied paint, lay on the floor, sprinkled with gasoline, set fire keeping a wet mop ready to extinguish in time, then pierced where it was necessary, cut rags where it was necessary, took a blowtorch for point fire setting, applied paint with his fingers.

For the first time, all five "Burnt Canvases" appeared in the Parisian retrospective of Miró in 1974. And then, a year before the fall of the Francisco Franco regime, they also became a powerful political expression of the artist. It was read unambiguously: a violent protest against repression and fascism in his homeland, and a foreign exhibition was an ideal platform for a loud conversation on this theme.
Man Ray. Portrait of Joan Miró, 1933. Source: www.alejandradeargos.com
Miró's tapestry was destroyed in the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001. At the time of the attack, the World Trade Center contained a huge amount of art. Most of them were lost forever, some were seriously damaged. A whole collection of drawings and sculptures by Auguste Rodin, the Entablatures series by Roy Lichtenstein, a sculpture by Alexander Calder, tens of thousands of negatives in the photo archive, fountains and frescoes. "The World Trade Centre Tapestry" also died — a work measuring 6 by 10 meters and weighing 4 tons, which Miró completed in 1974.
Cleaning of the World Trade Centre Tapestry by Joan Miró, 1997, 4 years before the tragedy. Source: www.flickr.com
The tapestry for the World Trade Centre was commissioned by Saul Wenegrat, who directed the art program under the New York administration. Miró refused and said that it was impossible to make a tapestry on his own, while he created only the art that he could create with his two hands. But then tragedy struck — an adult daughter of Miró traveled to Spain and had a serious accident. Miró promised to give the nuns who treated Dolores any of his works, if they put his daughter on her feet. When it became clear that Dolores was on the mend, the nuns asked Miró… a tapestry. The complete inexperience of Miró in this craft did not seem a convincing excuse to the nuns, and they found a craftsman in a nearby village who agreed to teach the 80-year-old artist this craft. Miró got fond of the textiles so much that he made the tapestry he promised to the nuns, and 20 more.
Saul Wenegrat had already forgot about the two-year-old order, when one day Miró's dealer called his office and said: "The tapestry for the World Trade Centre is ready."
"Blue" triptych by Joan Miró on display at the Tate Gallery in London, 2011. Source: www.theguardian.com
Miró lived such a long life that he influenced Rothko and Pollock at first, and then they influenced him. Miró survived two world wars and a civil war, the fascist regime in Spain and its fall. When he died at the age of 90, journalists said that the last modernist artist had passed away.
All his life they tried to attribute him to some artistic movement, to inscribe his style in some specific coordinate system. But rarely did anyone manage to do this without reservations. Miró did not sign art manifestos or take part in associations. In his first years in Paris, he rented a studio next to that of the surrealist André Masson. Their friends poets and fellow artists often gathered at one’s or the other’s. In the midst of some lively argument, Masson demanded that Miró speak out. Miró said nothing. Then furious Masson threw a rope around his friend’s neck and promised that he would strangle him if he finally did not speak out. Miró said nothing.

Joan (Joan) Miro. The wings of a lark surrounded by golden blue join the heart of a poppy sleeping in a diamond-studded meadow.

Receiving his awards, honorary titles, recognition and retrospective exhibitions in capitals on both sides of the ocean, he wasn’t to change anything and could follow the style he found once and for all. Instead, Miró moved to Mallorca, where he lived for over 30 years. "I work like a gardener," he said. His first non-figurative paintings of the 1920s, where he used 2 to 3 colours and painted the background blue or brown, had a strong influence on young American artists when Miró's first major exhibitions took place in New York. Then this impulse would return to the Catalan in the form of a powerful impression from the canvases of the abstract expressionists. He explored the possibilities of huge canvases, not deviating from his style, but only reducing his statements to a point, to a line, to one colour.

Photo: Miró works on his "Blue" triptych, 1961. Source: www.schirn.de
When they asked Miró, how long it took him to paint his "Blue" triptych, he replied: "Well, it took me only a moment to draw this line with my brush. But it took months and even years to think and formulate the idea."