Sophisticated Peasant

Joan Miró 1993–January 11, 1994

an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 17,

Joan Miró

catalog of the exhibition by Carolyn Lanchner
Museum of Modern Art/Abrams, 484 pp., $37.60 (paper)


by Jacques Dupin
Flammarion, 480 pp., FF 950

Joan Miró: Campo de Estrellas

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
177 pp., PES 3,400

A toute épreuve

by Paul Eluard, woodcuts by Joan Miró, Introduction by Anne Hyde Greet
Braziller, unpaged pp., $29.50 (paper)

The centenary of Joan Miró’s birth is being celebrated in high style. A “year of homage” has been declared by the Generalitat of Catalonia, and Barcelona is ablaze with posters and banners, thus keeping up some of the euphoria induced by last year’s Olympics. (The beautiful and undervalued Catalan composer Federico Mompú, also born in 1893, is being accorded lesser honors.) In Majorca, where Miró spent the last thirty-seven years of his life, a permanent collection of his work was inaugurated last December and opened to the public in March. Tenacious Miró fans can generally gain access to the large and beautiful studio next door, designed for the artist by Josep Lluis Sert, which is kept as it stood on Miró’s death.

Of the three major exhibitions that have been mounted, the first was at the new Reina Sofía museum in Madrid and was built around Miró’s Constellations, the series of small-scale works on paper begun at Varengeville in Normandy in 1940 and finished in Majorca the following year. Miró titled his work in French, but the Spanish Campo de Estrellas conveys more vividly the freedom and beauty of these little pictures. The vast exhibition at the Fundació Miró in Barcelona included a high proportion of the works that are currently on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but the exhibitions were differently conceived, and of the two the American version, which includes sculptures and ceramics, is the more challenging. There has been a flood of literature on the artist.

Miró, who died in 1983, would have been pleased by all the commotion, although he would probably have denied it. He had an almost morbid dread of commercialism in art and attacked artists who painted to sell. On the other hand his letters of the 1930s to the dealers Pierre Loeb and Pierre Matisse, who at that time were sharing his production, show that he was career-conscious to a degree. In 1926 he told a reporter from Barcelona’s La Publicitat, “I had told Pierre [Loeb] that I wouldn’t enter the ring unless it was a championship bout, that I didn’t want a friendly sparring match, that now was the time to go for the title.” In 1934 he confided to Loeb, “I completely shared judgments about certain persons [presumably the Surrealists]…but that doesn’t prevent them from being useful to us at certain moments.”

In 1975 the Miró Foundation’s Centre d’Estudis d’Art Contemporain opened unofficially in a beautiful building (designed by Sert) in Barcelona’s Parc de Montjuic. This is in effect Miró’s private museum. The following year he donated to the foundation some five thousand items including not only drawings, sketches and notebooks, but also newspaper clippings invariably about himself, photographs, postcards, letters, lists of books to read, things to be done. The material arrived in bits and pieces, following some crazy but inexorable logic of Miró’s own, and was of necessity catalogued not chronologically but as it reached the foundation. The result is a nightmare for the…

This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

View Offer

Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.

If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your account.