Joan Miro was born April 20, 1893 in Barcelona, Spain. Miro is one of the great pioneers of modern art. His ancestors were peasants and artisans, and his father was a goldsmith. Joan Miro began drawing at a young age as a way to escape the strictures of family life. His choice of motifs - tufts of grass, insects, tiny birds - revealed an early affinity for the organic, a love, as one commentator says, of "the little things" of this world. After finishing his military service Miro worked in an office, and attended crafts courses in his spare time. "I was a paragon of awkwardness," he confessed. In painting, too, judged by academic standards, Miro was entirely unsuccessful.
Joan Miro (1893-1983) ranks among the most important artists of the 20th century. An inventive and imaginative painter, sculptor, ceramicist and printmaker, Miro changed forever the course of modern art. Although Miro derived his own visual vocabulary from nature, Miro's artworks are frequently viewed as interesting abstract compositions, an effect that is enhanced by his vivid palette. More than any of his contemporaries, Miro’s iconography forms a bridge between figurative and abstract imagery, and had a profound influence on succeeding generations of artists. Joan Miro’s sparsely ordered lyrical canvases of the 1920’s and 30’s catapulted him to the fore of the Surrealist movement. A classification that persists yet he and his artwork stand apart as unique. However, the Surrealist precept of automatism (allowing the subconscious to dictate forms) helped to fuel Miro's vivid imagination throughout his career, leading him to spawn sensuous biomorphic imagery with universal appeal. Joan Miro did identify strongly with the Surrealist poets, finding in their verse the inspiration he sought for his own efforts. Their reward was his friendship and collaboration on many artists’ books, to which he would contribute the illustrations for their poetry.
In the 1960’s Joan Miro, while never ceasing to paint, devoted more and more of his time to printmaking, such as lithographs, etchings & Aquatints as well as ceramics, murals and sculpture. Miro was attracted to printmaking and sculpture as a respite from the solitary labors of painting and as an opportunity for teamwork together with master printers and artisans who were extremely knowledgeable in their fields. From these varied experiences Miro's own creative repertoire was enhanced and he found inspiration for all of his related works. For example, it is easy to understand how strongly calligraphic FEMME DANS LA NUIT (Woman in the Night), a 1967-71 wax crayon and watercolor featured in our exhibition, could easily have been conceived as a study for a lithograph in light of the mixed-media and scale employed. Similarly, the lushly imbued, UNTITLED gouache and watercolor of 1969-70 viewed herein could easily be related to a planned oil on canvas or aquatint etching. Miro recognized an advantage in printmaking, "…a painting is a unique example for a single collector. But if I pull seventy-five examples, I increase by seventy-five times the number of people who can own a work of mine. I increase the reach of my message seventy-five times." Joan Miro died on December 25,1983,in Spain.
If you are interested in buying or selling any Joan Miro Artwork, such as his lithographs, etchings & aquatints please click on Joan Miro Artwork located in the Modern Prints section of the web site and feel free to email or call us with any questions.
Joan Miro Lithograph
"Ubu Roi" - Edition of 205 copies were printed on Arches Vellum, of which 180 were unsigned, 25 copies are H.C., signed and numbered. 75 further portfolios were also printed, containing a suite with large margins, signed and numbered, one proof of the black plate numbered and monogrammed and one proof of the color plates, numbered. We have a suite from the edition of 180.
Joan Miro Etching
Joan Miro original etching and aquatint hand signed from 1975. This original etching & aquatint is titled "Quatre Colors Aparien el Mon" and is quite large, measuring 35" x 25" unframed. A small edition of 50 were published by Gili.
The start of Joan Miro's adventures as a painter occurred simultaneously with, and inseparably from, the beginning of his connections with literature. Both can be said to have developed concurrently over the years, producing some remarkable results: the extensive output of book illustrations, and editions de luxe, - a record of some of the most outstanding names in the literature of the time, and evidence of the perfect mastery and technique adapted to a support that by the very nature allows the finished work to be considered more, perhaps, as object than as painting.
However, Miro's interest in literature was not just one-sided; it was a response to feedback produced by the interest his work arroused in poets and writers. The first reviews of Miro's work in newspapers and journals were due in large measure to poets and writers such as J.V. Foix and Charles Sindreu. Joan Miro did identify strongly with the Surrealist poets, finding in their verse the inspiration he sought for his own efforts. Their reward was his friendship and collaboration on many artists’ books, to which he would contribute the illustrations for their poetry.
One of Miro's earliest printmaking commissions was to illustrate "Il etait une petite pie", 1928. For this project, Miro utilized the pochoir or stencil technique, which consists in cutting out the shape or motif on a zinc plate and inking in the holes or spaces in the zinc. Although stenciling is not strictly speaking a printing technique, "Il etait une petite pie" can certainly be considered the direct predecessor of the real edition de luxe. For the first time Miro produced illustrations concentrating on the sense of the accompanying text. This resulted in eight compositions along the lines of his painting at the time, dominated by signs, magic and mystery, which closely matched the text.
Miro used stencils again in 1984 for illustrations in the reviews D'aci i d'alla, published in Barcelona and Cahiers d'art, published in Paris. The latter also reproduced another stenciled picture by Miro in 1937 that became universally famous:" Aidez l'Espagne". Miro did this stencil, which was planned to be used for a postage stamp to raise funds for the Republican cause, a year after the start of the Spanish Civil War. Viewed on the basis of the stylistic patterns that characterized the work of Miro at the time - dominated by deformed figures, particularly human figures with which the artist tried to show his rejection of the events going on around him - "Aidez l'Espagne" was a forerunner of Miro's later posters, which were to great extent the fruit of his concern, on a social rather than a political level, with his environment. Meanwhile, however, Miro had already applied lithographic and intaglio techniques to the art of book illustration. This opened the way for his graphic work, which because of its specific importance can by no means be considered a merely a minor or secondary part of his pictorial output.
In the late twenties and early thirties Miro experienced a crisis of expression that led him to manifest on several occasions his rejection of painting, which he considered in decline since the age of cave-dwellers. As a result of this, he took up collage, studying the possibilities it offered, and explored three dimensional through the creation of objects. But importantly: before reaching this stage, Miro had set himself the strict discipline of analyzing forms through drawing-which he considered the first and essential step in the materialization of a picture. And which played a fundamental role in the development of his plastic language.
In 1929, Miro, in a style very close drawing, produced his first lithographs to illustrate "L'Abre des voyageurs" by Tristan Tzara, which was published in 1930. This first joint work by Tzara and Miro was not just the start of a fruitful collaboration but was also a step towards other adventures. Tzara introduced Miro to Louis Marcoussis, the cubist painter who had mastered with great skill, the techniques of drypoint, line engraving and etching, the secrets of which he imparted to Miro. It was as a result of this introduction that, in 1933, Miro was able to produce his first three etchings, as book illustration for Georges Hugonet's "Enfances". One can detect some progress in his mastery of the use of blank spaces that emphasize the volume of forms and make them stand against the flat ground of the paper.
Miro spent the post-war years in almost silent retreat. The completion of the twenty three gouaches of the "Constellations" series in Palma in 1941 marked the end of a period of crisis and productive investigation and the beginning of another, shorter phase in which the artist questioned aspects not of painting but of the environment.
The disillusionment caused by the senselessness of using technical advances for methodical and organized destruction, in which the supposedly most civilized countries of the world had participated, provoked a mental response to the reactionary and self-centered bourgeois attitude that found its theoretical background in existentialism. There was no exact parallel in the plastic arts, despite a desire to return to the essence of things, to an authenticity beyond pure market values. In the case of Miro, as with Picasso, the alternative was found in ceramics.
After several years of working almost exclusively on paper, Miro began this new adventure in 1944 and devoted two years of his life to it. From ceramics he went to bronze sculpture, and then from not having touched a copperplate or lithographic stone for seven years, he left Europe and went to spend nine months in New York. The reason for going to the United States was to work on a mural painting for a skyscraper in Cincinnati. What Miro did not realize was that he was taking the first step toward resuming a facet of his professional life that he had abandoned shortly after starting it - his graphic work and book illustrations.
In this unexpected return to illustration, Miro started on a new and exciting adventure illustrating" La Deseperanto", volume II of Tristan and Tzara's" L'Antitete". The period between 1960 and 1982 was the one in which Miro produced the most numerous and varied book illustrations, mastering large formats and working with a great many authors. For this reason it is difficult to discuss each edition individually. Its important to point out though that there is a remarkable unity between the rest of Miro's oeuvre and his book illustrations.
By the beginning of the sixties he was working and would continue to work on ceramic murals and large format paintings though without abandoning smaller paintings. At the same time he tended toward large format books whilst continuing to illustrate smaller ones. The change of dimensions as far as painting was concerned was accompanied by a new form of brushstroke. Miro abandoned the controlled execution of the fifties in favor of the gesture and the tension generated thereby. In books, this change can be detected in two of the PAB editions:" La" and "Un Jour entire, both dated 1960, and is shown more forcibly in the etching illustrating Poemes civil" by Joan Brossa, published 1961. In his paintings, the nearest equivalent would be "Triptych on white ground for hermit's cell", 1968, where in each of the three canvases a single black line on the vast white surface transmits the anxiety of someone who feels imprisoned, alone and isolated.
Miro's three-dimensional work also has its parallels in the world of illustration. In 1966, after completing a set of bronze sculptures, he began the task of illustrating Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Ro"i, published by Teriade. The result was certainly surprising: each of the thirteen prints is treated more as a stage set than as a drawing, as if it were a space in which volumes, in this case the characters in the play, can move freely. The grotesque rounded forms of the characters - they seem to be inflated - undoubtedly came from a profound study of Jarry's text that had so impressed Miro. Here contrary to his usual practice, the artist illustrated the text as if he were staging the play, following it to the very letter. Some time later, in 1978, these "sets" of Miro's were used for a play put on by the Claca Teatre group, Mori el Merma, which was based on Jarry's text, Miro's illustrations and all the material, both published and unpublished, produced by Miro in connection with character created by Alfred Jarry.
If you are interested in buying or selling any Joan Miro Artwork, such as his lithographs, etchings & aquatints please view our selection of Joan Miro Artwork or contact us by phone or email.
Joan Miro: Poetry and Prints
This essay was written by Jacques Dupin, who worked closely with Joan Miro to compile the information presented here. This essay offers personal incite into Joan Miro's relationship to poetry and its authors, and how it inspired his work in lithography and etching.
From 1959 to 1956, Joan Miro mostly worked in the workshops of Galerie Maeght in Levallois with Robert Dutou, and with him again in the Arte printing shop on rue Daguerre. He would also climb up the hill of Montmarte to the Felaut-Lacouriere workshop for fruitful visits, or print in Gili and Torralba's workshops in Barcelona. He required from all his partners a lot more than is usually offered to painters. He instigated, hustled, questioned, he wanted more and he wanted something else, and the more he asked for, the more he obtained. With Miro, the engraver and copperplate printer are not just doing a great artist a favor, it is a creative adventure they share and follow through with him, hand in hand. Joan Miro Himself had the aptitude to create an atmosphere of trust and friendship witch makes encounters and teamwork possible.
In Levallois, until 1966, Miro engraved some fifty prints, mostly etchings and aquatints, and fewer dry-point etchings. As in his [painting at the same time, he was influenced by new paintings and most of all by Pollock and abstract expressionism, and his imagination, in order to spread out, needed to react to a free intrusion of spots, drippings and accidents which provide the initial shock, an interpellation of the informal and the unformulated, and like a spring board for take off. With this impetus the gesture, set free, whisks the tool along, and the jubilatory stroke, its liveliness, express the pleasure of engraving, inventing, over-achieving, and of entrapping far off the beaten tracks as if to get away from the precise, set, deep-rooted signs for the Mironian repertoire. Miro often worked in series creating multiple variations from a black plate, for instance, a dappled bedding, as in Ouvrages du vent (wind works) where the same widespread black calls for counterpoints of greatly diversified aquatint colors. A similar serial language with Porteurs d'eau (Water bearers), in which the unraveled, fast line stands out against wash tints and, from one sheet to another, reveals a progressive enrichment or a bare starkness. He gives his preference to arabesque, his favorite, and sometimes multiplies it: La Chevelure de Berenice (Berenice's Hair) in entangled lines, in a thick and thin intricate intertwining. It is not enough for Miro to use conventional tools, noble but set in tradition. He prefers a nail, a comb, a screwdriver, a thousand year old dentist's drill or a raccoon tail, found at random and picked out of the scrap heap. And to fight a way through a jungle of searching and finding, double or treble writings are always superimposed, intricate, in the spirit of a palimpset, as though drawn lines should be contradicted, fought and confirmed by others; a s though ones eye should be constantly attracted and repelled, trapped and freed by an ambiguous reading. Lightness, tenuousness, or the Sonatine (Sonatina), incomplete narrative of the utmost simplicity as though blossoming forth from a Chinese bud or echoing calligraphy.
Under the Influence of Classics: 1960-1982 - page 1
The period 1960-1982 was the one in which Miro produced the most numerous and varied book illustrations, mastering large formats and working with a great many authors. For this reason it is difficult to discuss each edition individually. However, given the consistency of this work within its variety, it is easy to examine it on the basis of the different concepts involved. Mention should also be made of the remarkable unity between the rest of Miro's oeuvre and his book illustrations. By the beginning of the sixties, he was working and would continue to work on large format paintings and ceramic murals, though without abandoning smaller paintings. At the same time, he gradually tended towards large format books whilst continuing to illustrate small ones.
The change of dimensions as far as painting was concerned was accompanied by a new form of brushstroke. Miro abandoned the controlled execution of fifties in favor of the gesture and tension generated thereby. In the books, this change can be detected in two of the PAB editions: La and Un Jour entire, both dated 1960, and is shown more forcefully in the etching illustrating Poemes civils by Joan Brossa, published in 1961, Trace sur l'eau, 1963, and Flux de l'aimant by Rene Char, published in 1964. In his paintings, the nearest equivalent would be Triptych on white ground for a hermit's cell, 1968, where in each of three canvases a single black line on the vast white surface transmits the anxiety of someone who feels himself imprisoned, alone and isolated.
Miro's three-dimensional work also has its parallels in the world of illustration. In 1966, after completing a set of bronze sculptures, he began the task of illustrating Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, published by Teriade. The result was certainly surprising: each of the thirteen prints is treated more as stage set than a drawing, as if it were a space in which volumes, in this case the characters in the play, can move freely. The grotesque rounded form of the characters-they seem to be inflated- undoubtedly came from a profound study of Jarry's text that had so impressed Miro. Here, contrary to his usual practice, the artist lustrated the text as if he were staging the play, following it to the very measure. Sometime later, in 1978, these "sets" of Miro's were used for a play put on by the Claca Teatre group, Mori el Merma, which was based on Jarry's text, Miro's illustration and all the material, both published and unpublished, produced by Miro in connection with the character he created by Alfred Jarry.