Seven things to know about Joan Miró

A fundamental voice in early twentieth-century modernism, Spanish artist Joan Miró (1893-1983) created a vast body of work. His abstract forms and vibrant palette have made him a favorite among collectors of the modernist masters. In celebration of Mirò’s contributions to the art world – including the recent 46th birthday of his artistic foundation, the Fundaciò Joan Miró – we wanted to share a bit more about the fascinating figure. We’ll take an in-depth look at career landmarks alongside some of Joan Miró’s famous paintings that illuminate his incredible contribution to art history.

A portrait of Joan Miró by photographer Yousuf Karsh

Joan Miró c. 1965, Yousuf Karsh. Sold for $3,750 via Swann Auction Galleries (October 2019).

1. Joan Miró turned to art after attempting a business career

Born in Barcelona towards the end of the nineteenth century, Miró differed from many of his artistic colleagues who had spent their early years in the hallowed halls of international art academies. Although passionate about art as a young man, Miró first studied business to please his parents. But after a career in accounting fell flat in 1912, Miró enrolled at the Francesc Gali’s Escola d’Art. 

Head of a Catalan Peasant, Joan Miró

Head of a Catalan Peasant, hand-signed print, Joan Miró. Sold for $400 via New Ideas Auctions (January 2018)

Some of Miró’s earliest paintings were created during his artistic studies reveal his innovative compositional approach and his desire to use his art to express his Spanish – and in particular his Catalan – origins. 

2. He enjoyed a wide web of associates, from Pablo Picasso to Ernest Hemingway. 

Joan Miró embraced the opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with other artists. For instance, he took inspiration from Pablo Picasso, whom he met in Paris in the early 1920s. That same decade Miró made the acquaintance of famed American author Ernest Hemingway. Soon after, Hemingway purchased Miró’s painting, The Farm (1921-1922) because, to paraphrase Hemingway’s description, the painting captured the essence of Spain.

3. Miró was a key figure in the Surrealist movement. 

An early work tipifying Joan Miro's contribution to the Surrealist movement.

Tête Humaine, 1931, Joan Miró. First exhibited in the Exposition Surréaliste in 1933. Sold for $14,866,500 via Sotheby’s (May 2012).

As Miró’s practice developed, he often worked against being categorized as an artist. His unyielding avant-garde approach, however, landed him a spot in the first Surrealist exhibition of 1925. Drawing him to the genre, led by figures like Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, was the practice of automatism, which allowed him to explore organic, biomorphic forms freed from conscious control. His shift toward this practice, as seen in Surrealist works like The Tilled Field (1923), became central to his entire career. 

4. He was ever the innovator. 

Seeing art as a fluid practice, Miró was untethered to artistic media. Rather, innovation and exploration were at the core of his artistic practice as a means to bridge art’s past with its future. For example, a visit to the Netherlands in the later 1920s spurred the artist to incorporate elements of seventeenth-century Dutch genre paintings into his biomorphic style. 

The tapestry created by artists Joan Miró and Josep Royo for the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

The World Trade Center Tapestry, by Joan Miró and Josep Royo, 1974.

He also experimented with different techniques from his absorption of automatism early in his career to his later embrace of monumental multimedia works. An iconic example was his 1974 collaboration with artist Josep Royo in a multimedia work  for the lobby of the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Known simply as The World Trade Center Tapestry and measuring more than 20 by 30 feet, it was destroyed when the towers fell during the 2001 terrorist attack on the building.

5. Over the course of his career, Miró reportedly created more than 10,000 works of art across various media. 

Of these, more than 2,000 were Miró’s prints, which were part of his body of work from as early as the 1930s and became a main artistic focus in the 1950s. While he created these works through different techniques, some of his most successful were his lithographs. Leading among these was his Barcelona Series (1939-1944), which comprised 50 images consisting of abstract – and at times monstrous – forms that have been interpreted as expressing the artist’s disgust in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

Image #22 from Miró's Barcelona Series

Pl. 22, from Barcelona Series, Joan Miró. Sold for $10,000 via Bonhams (October 2013).

6. Miró succeeded throughout his career in transforming himself from an artistic failure to an international art celebrity.

Etoile Bleu, a painting by Joan Miró that fetched a record hammer price in 2012

Peinture (Etoile Bleu), 1927, Joan Miró. Sold for £23,561,250 via Sotheby’s (June 2012).

Miró’s early years as an artist were far from rosy. His first exhibition in Barcelona in 1918, in fact, resulted only in poor reviews from local critics. But rather than succumbing to their negativity, Miró was able to persevere and chart his own course through early twentieth-century art. The result was Miró’s rapid rise to artistic acclaim, particularly in the wake of World War II as global audiences warmed more rapidly to the innovation of modernist expression. That acclaim has continued into the twenty-first century: in 2012, one of his early works, Peinture (Etoile Bleue)(1927), sold for an astonishing $37 million at auction.

7. The artist continues to support young artists today. 

In the final years of his life, Miró established the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona. Designed to serve as an archive of Miró’s artistic career, the foundation also serves as a vital outlet to support rising artists. A destination today for both scholars and fans alike, the Fundació celebrates the energy of modernism’s innovation that continues among emerging artists today.

Joan Miró’s art always draws a crowd when it enters the auction market, not only because his colors and compositions are alluring but also because they create a space for viewers to meander through the motifs and messages that each work conveys. 

Joan Miró work at auction

Joan Miró Paintings

Peinture, 1933, Joan Miró

Peinture, 1933, Joan Miró
Christie’s (November 2017)
Est: $18,000,000-$25,000,000
Sold: $23,375,000

 

 

Joan Miró Sculptures and Collages

La Porte (Objet), a piece of found art by Joan Miró

La Porte (Objet), Joan Miró
Sotheby’s (November 2017)
Est: $15,000,000-$20,000,000
Sold: $13,410,000

 

Projet pour un monument, also known as Grand personnage

Projet pour un monument, 1981, Joan Miró
Christie’s (May 2007)
Est: $3,500,000-5,000,000
Sold: $9,896,000

 

Personnage, a Joan Miró sculpture

Personnage, 1967, Joan Miró,
Christie’s (May 2008)
Est: $3,000,000-$4,000,000
Sold: $5,735,000

Joan Miró Drawings and Prints

Le piège, Joan Miró

Le piège, 1924, Joan Miró
Christie’s, (March 2021)
Est: £3,000,000-£5,000,000
Sold: £5,302,500

 

 

La femme au miroir, Joan Miró

La femme au miroir, 1956, Joan Miró
Mallet Auction, Tokyo (July 2013)
Est: ¥1,500,000-¥2,000,000
Sold: not available

 

Etude pour ‘Derrière le miroir’, Zephyr Bird, 1956,  Joan Miró
Christie’s (June 2008)
Est: £250,000-£350,000
Sold: £433,250


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