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Joan Miró

(1893—1983) Spanish painter


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(1893–1983)

Spanish semi-abstract painter and graphic artist.

After overcoming opposition from his father, who, like his father before him, was a craftsman in Barcelona, Miró attended the local school of fine arts. His first portraits and landscapes combined elements of Catalan folklore with the colourful technique of the fauves, recently current in Paris. Miró visited Paris in 1919 and became friendly with his compatriot Picasso, whose influence can be seen in Miró's paintings of that period. Miró settled in Paris in 1920 and joined the dada group there but was later associated with the surrealists. He contributed to the first exhibition of the surrealists in 1926, by which time he had evolved the completely personal style that he continued to develop throughout his career. His paintings represented a brightly coloured fantasy world of spiky calligraphic forms against plain backgrounds. The lines and semifigurative forms were variously angular, amoeba-like, or reminiscent of cave paintings. André Breton, the chief theorist of surrealism, described Miró's work as ‘pure psychic automatism’ and Miró himself said, ‘I begin painting and as I paint the picture begins to assert itself, or suggest itself, under my brush. The form becomes the sign for a woman or a bird as I work.’

Collage, assemblage, and graphics began to interest him in the 1930s and ceramics in the 1940s. During the Spanish civil war he left Spain and lived in Paris, where the element of gaiety disappeared from his work; such pictures as Head of a Woman (1938) expressed his sense of impending horror. He returned to Spain in 1940 to escape World War II. In the 1950s he produced two large ceramic murals for the UNESCO building in Paris. In 1954 he won the Grand Prix for graphic art at the Venice Biennale.


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