Joan Miró (1893-1983)

From the Collection of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

7 July 2004 - 7 August 2004

One of the most celebrated Catalonian artists of the twentieth century, enjoying uninterrupted popularity up to the present day, appeared in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest with exactly twice as many works of art as four years earlier, in the Klee–Tanguy–Miró show. Budapest was already the third stop for that travelling exhibition of great acclaim.

Joan Miró's rich œuvre was represented in the more recent chamber exhibition by forty-eight compositions: alongside the paintings, bronze sculptures, as well as large-scale graphic works. The artworks derived from the collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. Albeit the Spanish museum only rather late, on the occasion of the centenary of Picasso's birth, in 1980, obtained its first Miró painting, by three years later, it successfully achieved, in the course of systematic acquisition commenced after the artist's death, to have every creative period of the master represented within the collection, and as we have been able to see, with no constraint of genres.

The selection presented in the exhibition gathered Miró's later, clarified and mature works. The earliest composition, Head of a Man, made in 1935, stands alone as the single representative of those "wild pictures" in which the painter – as he put it – attempted to "kill painting".

The "sculptures" assembled "at random" from collages and found objects in the mid-20s manifest the preliminaries of his statues, in which the automatism of the Surrealists is formally revived. These constructions evoke the close connection of the artist with the Parisian Rue Blomet group. In his later bronze sculptures, Miró engaged in the issue of the conscious combining and harmonising of found objects. The exhibition presented nine of these. The majority of sculptures were made in the second half of the 1960s, thematically depicting the surreal, ironic and at the same time, decorative symbiosis of the feminine and masculine realm. The heterogeneous objects constructed in their patinated bronze, homogeneous mould do not lose their own character, but collectively create a fragile vision, precarious in every detail, but joyous all the same. The symbolic imbroglio reminiscent of prehistoric hieroglyphics carved into the surface of the sculpture creates for Miró the visual lexicon, his autonomous mother tongue of fine arts, which rendered so suitably the permeability between artistic genres.

The ceaseless thirst for creative freedom and experimentation that accompanied the artist over his entire course of life, paired with the researcher/artisan attitude so distinctive of him, often inspired him to engage in the field of graphic art, the genre most suited to fresh and spontaneous expression. Miró acquired the professional knowledge resting on solid foundations, which was awarded the Grand Prix for graphics at the 1954 Venice Biennale, at the Lacourière atelier in Paris, as well as at Atelier 17 in New York. Among the works presented at the exhibition, the earliest one, a piece from the Synthesis series, the 1936 large-scale pochoir, entitled Woman and Dog in Front of the Moon, recalls Picasso's collages; the characteristic Miró iconography asserts itself only in the further, twelve prints, made in a limited edition (etchings, aquatint and vernis mou dusted with sand), as well as in the seven lithographs presented. Among the previous works, Miró made two etchings (Series II and Series III, 1952–53) at Atelier 17, but it was only seven years later, in Paris, that he could print and issue them, with the support of Adrien Maeght. Maeght also financed the artist's mixed media 1967 Graffiti Series, and five of these were displayed. Among the lithographs, the 1969 Drunken Tailor's Revelation comprises a separate grouping, with three different colour variations (grey, white, aubergine) in the selection, as an expressive example of the exploitation of technical possibilities inherent in multiplication, even if it involves the least valuable prints drawn from the final buttress.

The repertoire of graphic works concludes with the 1981 etchings, The Vendor of  Colours, the final piece of the artist's graphics from his atelier in Palma de Mallorca. The etching made in 1981 indicates a close formal/stylistic parallel with Miró's paintings from the 70s, most notably his oil painting featured in the show, the 1974 Character, Birds. Characteristic of this period is reduction and the concentrated and laconic rendering of his compositions. Among the nearly fifty compositions gathered for the exhibition, the 1973 acrylic painting, The Dance of the Poppies, is the most taciturn and perplexing. The lines intersecting in an acute angle, drawn with just a few brushstrokes, and the three red spots of paint below can induce countless meanings in the viewer. Perhaps it is here that Miró's peculiar flair for calling into being the associative contents that set fantasy in motion, formulating the poetic images in his works, makes itself felt most. Miró's art is often referred to as the images of a poet set to music. This statement postulates the consonance of three different art forms, but it does not even seem odd in the knowledge of the master's passionate and committed inclination nourished on poetry and prose.

Similar to some of his significant compatriots, Miró's talent evolved not in his own country, but abroad. His creations have been displayed, for the most part, far from Catalonia, and in the establishment of his artistic reputation, he was least in the vanguard in Spain. The first monograph on the artist was written in 1940 by Japanese poet Shuzo Takiguchi. The hardly secret intention of the chamber exhibition that has already been shown in countless countries, and now in 2004 in the Museum of Fine Arts, is the regrouping of general consciousness. In simpler terms, is a state museum, hand in hand with official cultural politics, capable of fabricating a national treasure from a "cosmopolitan artist"?

Márton Orosz