Perhaps the most striking characteristic of a child’s art is that it cannot go wrong. There are no bad drawings by children; in the same way, there are no bad paintings by Joan Miro. The German dramatist Heinrich von Kleist once told the story of a duel between a man and a bear: not only did the animal ward off every thrust of the sword, but he never fell for his opponents feints- in fact, he seemed not even to suspect them. It is the infallibility of innocence.
Miro’s color, no matter how free an unpredictable , is always rigorously right, like the acid harmonies of a duck’s plummage or a piece of rock. Supremely right too, is his line, like the flight of a bird, or the patterns made by water spilled from a glass, or the sinuosities of a cowboy’s rope about to snare a cow. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti once called Miro “truly a painter”, which is what distinguishes Miro from the child. Indeed there lies the source of a profound conflict. For painting is an adult activity. It is not surprising therefore, that the realm of childhood is usually forbidden ground to artists. When they trespass upon it, they become childish, not childlike. That is the reason for Miro’s secret, for the elation that is so specifically his own.
“There is a type of artist who wants to appear naive–Alfonso Ossorio, for example, or Jean Dubuffet, or even Philip Guston. Whereas the genuine naive, though truly talented, is helpless, the faux naive is a crafty one. Anything will do to serve his ambition to seem naive. It is rare but not painful to have talent; you either have it or you don’t. It is, however, laborious and painful to want to seem to have talent. The risk is great: the faux naive may fail to convince, may be perceived as coy. Dubuffet is not Adolf Wolfli–one is a put-on and one is genuine.
Miro was a true naive, trusting, unable to take two steps without his supporting family. When I knew him he always replied to every question, “I’ll have to ask Pilar,” his wife. His large brown eyes were innocent and serene. He was a truly naive person in the best sense of the word: someone who could not grow up. He was what he was and did not pretend or want to be anybody else. He believed in himself, and that is a great compliment. He really accepted himself. In the true naive there is no discrepancy between the person and the work. Miro was his work.” ( Louise Bourgeois)
Even more fully than Paul Klee, Miro placed a mature skill at the disposal of a primitive imagination. And this unique conjunction reopened for us the road to what Baudelaire called the green paradises of childhood. In appearance, nothing could stand in greater contrast to Miro’s work than Miro himself. His art is extravagant; the man was the incarnation of propriety and sobriety. Correct in dress, quiet in behavior, meticulous in his routines; he resembled less an artist in the popular conception than a good church goping bourgeois. To anyone who knew Miro’s painting, the opposition was comically startling- though the humour was always perfectly unintentional, Miro, even in his most exuberant fantasies remained grave. Like children , he played, but his games were in dead earnest. But Miro was actually following a certain logic. As the depository of a fragile treasure- a childlike purity in a world of grownups- he knew that he must take pains to preserve it: pretend to play the game behind a demure facade, then take off for Mars and Venus.
His early works in Paris could be characterized as strangely anarchic and deliberate. In them, nature bulges and sways ominously; the works have some of the frustrated fury of Van Gogh. They are powerful, moving , sometimes considered failings that Miro attributed to the fact that reality still eluded him. By 1922, Miro had felt he reached a dead end where reality had freezed into a pillar of salt. In an ultimate attempt to capture reality , he painted “The Farm.”
“The Farm” is a compendium, a summa of all that mattered most to Miro: a collision of ancestral opposites. It took Miro nine months to complete “The FarmR
The outer world, the world of contemporary events, always has an influence on the painter — that goes without saying. If the interplay of lines and colors does not expose the inner drama of the creator, then it is nothing more than bourgeois entertainment.
The forms expressed by an individual who is part of society must reveal the movement of a soul trying to escape the reality of the present, which is particularly ignoble today, in order to approach new realities, to offer other men the possibility of rising above the present. In order to discover a livable world — how much rottenness must be swept away!
If we do not attempt to discover the religious essence, the magic sense of things, we will do no more than add new sources of degradation to those already offered to the people today, which are beyond number.
The horrible tragedy that we are experiencing might produce a few isolated geniuses and give them an increased vigor. If the powers of backwardness known as
fascism continue to spread, however, if they push us any farther into the dead end of cruelty and incomprehension, that will be the end of all human dignity.
Joan Miró, “Statement,” 1939