Joan Miro was an internationally renowned Spanish Catalan artist of the 20th century who was among the earliest painters involved in the art movement Surrealism. His work is also considered a precursor to Abstract Expressionism thus making him an essential part of the two most dominant art movements of the twentieth century. Here are the 10 most famous paintings of Joan Miro including renowned masterpieces like Blue II, Peinture, The Farm and Catalan Landscape.
#10 Portrait of Vincent Nubiola
Spanish Title: Retrato de Vicenç Nubiola
Vincent Nubiola was a professor of agriculture at the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona whom Miro met while studying life art at Barcelona’s Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc. This portrait of Nubiola is considered Miro’s finest work in portraiture and the greatest masterpiece of his early period when he experimented with a mixture of both Cubism and Fauvism. Acquired for a time by Pablo Picasso, the portrait now resides in the collection of the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany.
#9 The Tilled Field
Catalan Title: Terra llaurada
Joan Miro was always linked with the rural world and the influence of country landscapes can be seen in several of his works. This painting is an abstract depiction of the landscape of Miro’s Catalan homeland. The Tilled Field was a radical departure from Miro’s earlier works and along with the Catalan Landscape it is his first major work to be classified as Surrealist. A complex arrangement of objects and figures, The Tilled Field is among Miro’s earliest Surrealist masterpieces.
#8 May 1968
French Title: Mai 1968
May 1968 was a period of civil unrest in France marked by a series of student protests against capitalism, consumerism and traditional institutions. The period, which involved strikes by more than 22% of the population of France, is considered as a cultural, social and moral turning point in the history of the country. Joan Miro, who sympathized with the movement, was inspired by its event to create this masterpiece to capture the spirit of the rebellion.
#7 Still Life with Old Shoe
Spanish Title: Bodegón del zapato viejo
Created in context of the Spanish Civil War, this masterpiece expresses Miro’s distress over the situation in Spain with its detailed depiction of the rise of evil, invasion by monsters and decline of the human figure. The objects in the picture, an old shoe, an apple impaled by a fork, etc. stand as tragic symbols of an ordinary person’s life. Considered Miro’s finest artwork in the genre, Still Life with Old Shoe is often compared with Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica for its despair and portrayal of the consequences of any war.
#6 The Escape Ladder
Spanish Title: Escalera de escape
Among the most important artworks of Miro is a series of 23 small paintings known as the Constellations. Created after the outbreak of World War II, the element of escaping is prevalent in works of the series. The ladder was often used by Miro in his artworks and acted as a metaphor to put his works on a different plane, away from mundane realism. The Escape Ladder perhaps aims to provide a path for the artist and viewer to escape from war, genocide and brutality. It is the most famous painting of the renowned Constellations series.
#5 Catalan Landscape (The Hunter)
Catalan Title: Paisatge català (El caçador)
Catalan Landscape and the Tilled Field are earliest two major works of Miro that are classified as surrealist. They employ the symbolic language that would be prevalent in his later works. In The Hunter, his Catalan peasant alter ego is captured simultaneously in the act of shooting a rabbit for his cooking pot and fishing for a sardine for his barbecue. The painting is such intricately encoded that Miro later provided a precise explanation of the signs he had used. Catalan Landscape remains among the most celebrated surrealist masterpieces of Joan Miro.
#4 Painting (Blue Star)
French Title: Peinture (Etoile Bleue)
Marking his transition between figurative and abstract art, Blue Star is considered among the most important paintings in the career of Miro. The searing blue color he used in the painting could be seen in several of his future works and influenced later painters including Mark Rothko and Yves Klein. In June 2012, Peinture (Etoile Bleue) was sold at auction for £23.5 million, setting a record for the highest price paid for a painting by Joan Miro, which stands as of February 2016.
#3 Blue II
French Title: Bleu II
Among Miro’s most famous artworks is the Triptych Blue I, II, III consisting of three enormous 355 cm x 270 cm paintings. All three paintings consist of simple lines and shapes on a dreamy blue background. In Blue II, Miro includes a dynamic red line on the left side of the painting in contrast to the serene blue background. The Bleu Triptych is considered one of Miro’s masterly achievements and Bleu II is the most renowned of the three paintings.
#2 The Harlequin’s Carnival
Spanish Title: El Carnaval de Arlequín
This painting depicts a merry making festival known as Mardi Gras, the celebration that begins the fasting of Lent and culminates on the day before Ash Wednesday. The titular character of the painting, Harlequin, is a person who puts on a disguise for fun, frequently plays the guitar and is usually the victim of unrequited love. Harlequin’s Carnival is seen by art critics as an account of the human subconscious mind. It is considered the highest point in Miro’s personal surrealist style.
#1 The Farm
Catalan Title: La Granja
Joan Miro’s most famous painting, The Farm, shows the family’s country house in Mont-roig del Camp, Catalonia. Miro later said of the artwork, “I wanted to put everything I loved about the country in the canvas, from a huge tree to a tiny little snail.” Miro regarded The Farm as key to his artistic career describing it as “the summary of one period of my work, but also the point of departure for what was to follow.” The painting is regarded as the highest point of Miro’s realistic representations, before he turned towards surrealism. Ernest Hemingway bought it later and compared its artistic accomplishment to James Joyce’s Ulysses. He wrote in 1934, “I won’t change The Farm for any painting in the world”.