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The childlike genius of Joan Miró
ThinkSpain , Monday, August 1, 2005

If you ever find yourself in Barcelona, keep an eye open for examples of the work of local artist Joan Miró (1893-1983). His monumental sculpture "Woman and bird" (photo, bottom right) was installed in Barcelona's Parc de Joan Miró in 1982 and he was responsible for the famous ceramic paving, which has helped brighten up the Pla de l'Ós on the Rambla (photo, top right) since its inauguration in 1976. Alternatively, you could take in a trip to the Joan Miró Foundation Centre near the Montjuic Olympic stadium (photo, centre left), or if you are in Mallorca, you could drop by the Miró Museum, which opened in 1992 at the artist's dream studio villa in Palma, which was designed for him by the architect, Josep Lluis Sert, and where he lived from 1956.

Born the son of a Barcelona goldsmith and jewellery maker on the 20th April 1893, young Joan was always fascinated with drawing and received special tuition from one of his primary school teachers -a Mr Civil- from the age of seven. Bowing to pressure from his father to follow him into the family business, he enrolled at the Barcelona School of Commerce Fine Arts to study book-keeping in 1907 while simultaneously keeping up his artistic studies at the Barcelona School of Fine Arts where Modest Urgell and Josep Pascó were among his teachers.

Upon completion of his studies in 1910, his father secured him a position as an accounts clerk at the Dalmau i Oliveres drugstore in Barcelona, where he was terribly unhappy and depressed. Young Joan came down with typhoid after enduring two years selling household cleaning products and was packed off to the family's recently acquired farm in Mont-roig (Tarragona) to convalesce. Joan's parents finally gave up their objections to him following his artistic ambitions full time and he was allowed the time to express his love of the simple country life in styles very much influenced of Cézanne and the Fauvists. One example is "Prades, the village" (1917), an oil on canvas painting (65 x 72.5cm), which is on show at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York (photo, centre right).

Returning to Barcelona at the age of nineteen, Joan enrolled in the private academy of Francesc Galí Fabra and together with a number of like-minded young artists, founded the "Agrupació Courbet" movement in 1918, which opposed conservative traditions in Catalan art. The youngster first moved to Paris in March 1920, returning to Mont-roig in the summer before setting himself up in a studio belonging to the sculptor Pau Gargallo the following winter. During this time Miro met Picasso and joined the circle of Surrealist theorist Andre Breton without ever becoming fully integrated, experimenting with a number of different styles during the 1920s, which are described by his biographer Jacques Dupin as the artist's "poetic realism" phase.

By the 1930s, Miró had developed a style of his own and his fame and recognition began to spread internationally. Throughout his life, Miró, who never quite lost the appearance and mannerisms of the modest accountant he once was, said he worked like a peasant and loved the plain, simple things in life. There are no complicated lines and structures in his work and his forms are few and simple. His colours are strong and bright and his best work is a song to happiness and the imagination. The overall impression is that his paintings could have been done by a young child and appeal to those who know how to look at art and life itself with humility and simplicity. Shown is "Women and birds at sunrise" (1946), an oil on canvas painting (54 x 65cm), which can be seen at the Miró Foundation in Barcelona (photo, centre left).

Returning to his homeland after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Miró turned his attention to different media, experimenting with sculpture, ceramics and murals. In 1947, he completed a mural painting for the Gourmet Room at the Terrace Plaze Hotel in Cincinnati. Following his move to Palma in 1956, he worked on two murals for UNESCO headquarters in Paris for which he won the Guggenheim International Award in 1959 which was presented to him by president Eisenhower. Over the next twenty years, Miró undertook a number of similar commissions including those for the Harvard Harkness Centre (1961), the Ecole Superieure de Sciences Economiques in St. Gall, Switzerland (1964), the fence of the Maeght Foundation in Saint Paul de Vence, Barcelona airport (1970), and the Osaka World Fair (1970).

By the time of his death in Palma on Christmas Day 1983, Miró had compiled a massive body of work including; around 2,000 oil paintings, 500 sculptures, 400 ceramic objects, as well as over 5,000 drawings and collages.

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