Previously unknown, this painting by the Catalan painter comes from the beginning of his Surrealist period—one of his richest and most expressive—and already illustrates his lifelong passion for color.
Joan Miró (1893-1983), Composition, 1926, oil on canvas signed and dated on the bottom right, 22 x 16 cm/8.7 x 6.3 in.
Successió Miró/Adagp, Paris, 2023
André Breton’s description of Joan Miró as "the most Surrealist of us all” shows how important he considered his art. In 1926, at the age of 33, the Catalan painter emerged from a trying period of hunger and deprivation that gave rise to an intense, almost hallucinatory intellectual upheaval. At loggerheads with tradition, realism and even Cubism, he sought to find his own path away from existing approaches and invent a new language. He had been exploring the Surrealist ideas advocated by his friends Breton, Louis Aragon and Paul Éluard for around two years, and contributed to the birth of the movement. A year earlier, in 1925, Benjamin Péret wrote a preface for Miró's solo exhibition at the Pierre (Loeb) Gallery in Paris, where he appeared again a few months later in the first general exhibition of Surrealist painters.
His joining the group coincided with the glorious return of color, already found in The Harlequin’s Carnival (1924-1925) and The Birth of the World (1925). After that, he created the series of "Dream Pictures" to which the painting here belongs. What makes these works so different from the rest of his corpus is their purely dreamlike atmosphere. On a plain, monochrome ground that dominates the whole composition—in this case a cerulean, immaterial and mysterious blue—shapes and streaks stand out like stars or comets: forms emerging from his unconscious.
Miró fervently adopted automatism, considering dreams more important than reality, and creating a world full of symbols and wonders. Unlike with many of his Surrealist brethren, pictorial values in his paintings preceded the meaning: the arrangement of colored spots on the surface—which might be plentiful or few, depending on the period, in varying degrees of vividness, sometimes dispersed and sometimes coordinated—preceded the significance he gave them in a second phase. 1926 thus marked a turning point in his career. In the farmhouse bought by his parents in Montroig, near Tarragona, Miró left his weightless spaces and connected once more with the idea of the earth, which resulted in a series of Imaginary Landscapes. 1926 was also the year in which he and Max Ernst designed the sets for Les Ballets Russes’ Romeo and Juliet, which earned the two artists the wrath of their colleagues, led by Breton. Miró owed much to Surrealism, especially the idea of giving free rein to the imagination. But the opposite was also true, and it is important not to forget this.