• gerard van weyenbergh

Miro, magician of the unforseen


Painter, sculptor, engraver… Joan Miró has never ceased to explore the paths of creation all his life, mixing sensitive and dreamlike experimentation.

"Think of the magical shock that is established when the tool comes into contact with the metal, and always start from this divine spark", professed Joan Miró (1893–1983), as a researcher and a poet.

Half-abstract, half-figurative, drawing as much from experimentation as from the material of dreams, two facets of Juan Miro artist who never stopped creating a new language. The Maeght Foundation is a place closely linked to Joan Miró's career. The artist, friend, and accomplice of the couple Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, has created a fabulous labyrinth of sculptures and a celestial stained-glass window, radiating here his infinitely curious all-around spirit. Joan Miró, The Flint Striker , 1973

Miro art expert
© Successió Miró, Adagp Paris, 2019

The exhibition, entitled "Beyond painting", celebrates this joyfully experimental dimension by focusing more particularly - through some 200 pieces - in the graphic work that the artist undertakes in 1927, with an ogre appetite. "Engraving is for me a major means of expression. It was a means of liberation, of enlargement, of discovery. Even if, at the beginning, I was a prisoner of its constraints, its "cooking", tools and recipes too dependent on tradition. It was necessary to resist them, to overwhelm them, and then an immense field of possibilities opened up to the gaze and to the hand…" he confessed later.


Joan Miró, Le Troubadour , 1976

Miro art expert
© Successió Miró, Adagp Paris, 2019

Aquatint, intaglio, stencil, lithography, xylography, chalcography… Joan Miró seeks to master all traditional techniques. To finally push back the limits, by incorporating collages, games of textures, ink or color stains…. The artist plays with these "diabolical accidents" which, in his words, "lend themselves to so many adventures". The exhibited works fully express this pleasure of discovery and play offered by new processes. An enjoyable freedom highlighted by the always humorous or poetic titles. Here, an ink stain becomes a shaggy monster ( La Ruisselante lunaire , 1976). There, the silhouette of a corkscrew reinvents itself as a troubadour juggling with colors ( Le Troubadour,1976). In one series, the imprint of an object pressed onto the surface of the paper turns into an owl's head ( Le Hibou blasphémateur, 1975) and, on another print, into a precious jewel ( Le Bijou - Bon à tir, 1969) .

Mad inventor, the artist goes even further, as shown in the last room of the exhibition, judiciously presenting the engraved matrix side by side and the final result: the copper plate is itself perforated with acid to obtain unexpected results effects of superimpositions and materials. As for the supports, everything goes there: parchments, newspaper, dressmaking patterns, book covers, Vichy fabrics…. Its language is constantly changing. But it is in contact with Adrien Maeght that Miró seems more than ever intoxicated by this absolute technical freedom. In 1946, he met the young son of the Maeght couple: passionate about art publishing, he founded the ARTE printing house in 1964, where he reserved an entire workshop and a press for Joan Miró. From this companionship will be born a multitude of posters, invitation cards and covers for the magazine.Behind the Mirror . Also obsessed with new possibilities, Adrien Maeght introduced him to new processes, such as carborundum, but also digital scanners. The ultimate feat, the duo even planned to produce a lithograph over 50 meters long, which had to be printed using a steamroller, on an airstrip ...

At the Doyenné de Brioude, we seem to be far removed from these technical considerations. Under a multicolored ceiling adorned with a fabulous medieval bestiary, the other summer exhibition dedicated to the Catalan master prefers to embark on "The Paths of Poetry". A great connoisseur, its curator Jean-Louis Prat was director of the Maeght Foundation for thirty-five years and orchestrated Joan Miró's last retrospective at the Grand Palais in 2018. However, here, the journey is less learned, less structured, than in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Even if it means losing a little en route the visitor lacking landmarks. The exhibition, bringing together some sixty pieces, is rather a free stroll in the dreamlike world of the artist, in the company of the poets who inspired him.

Miro art expert
© Bridgeman Images / © Successió Miró, Adagp Paris, 2019

André Breton and Joan Miró, Constellations , 1959


"The simplest things give me ideas. "

Joan Miró


From his beginnings within the surrealist constellation, in the 1920s, the Catalan painter befriended the writers Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, Philippe Soupault and, of course, the great manitou André Breton, who declares Joan Miró "the most surreal of us". It is thanks to his literary friendships that the artist became interested in printmaking and art publishing. We thus find presented - both in Brioude and in Saint-Paul-de-Vence - the plates of Parler Seul (1948–1950) by Tristan Tzara, strewn with mysterious ideograms of pure color, and those of the Adonides (1975) by Jacques Prévert, where the handwritten text becomes a graphic element mingling with the serpentine lines of Miró. Among the other printed treasures, the boards of the mythical. Constellations (1959) by André Breton, reproducing Miró's eponymous gouaches, saturated with cryptic elements with cosmic accents; Unfailingly (1958) by Paul Éluard in which Miró plays with the effects of matter offered by engraved wood; and the fantastic visual interpretation of Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry, flooded with incredible colors.

A farandole of enigmatic symbols swirling and crackling in the void.

The paths of poetry not only passing through the editorial collaborations of Joan Miró, the Doyenné plunges us into his dreamlike world through sumptuous canvases and sculptures on loan - mainly by private collectors, but also by the Center Pompidou. The verses inscribed on the walls respond to the very personal visual alphabet that the artist deploys. A huge dance of characters and birds on a blue sky, sparks(1968) thus translates into a farandole of enigmatic symbols swirling and crackling in the void. Suppose the visitor comes up against the impossibility of deciphering everything. In that case, he easily detects, through recurring elements, the fascination for the celestial world, primitive or monstrous figures, and sex (sometimes threatening). But the artist, who asserted that "the simplest things [give him] ideas", also finds material for poetry in the assembly of seemingly banal objects: fork, stone, stool ... It is in the instinctive association, the hazardous encounter, which the artist awakens the imagination. Whether technical or intellectual, Joan Miró celebrated this magic of the unforeseen: "More than the painting itself, what matters is what it throws in the air, what it spills".

© Florelle Guillaume for Beaux Arts

great video about Joan Miro