Mischief Maker

A new exhibit showcases the neglected, playful sculptures of artist Joan Miró

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He married Pilar Juncosa, the daughter of family friends from the island of Majorca, in 1929, calling her “the most beautiful and sweetest bride in the world.” They had one child, a daughter, Maria Dolores, and the couple lived together until his death in 1983 at the age of 90. Pilar died in 1995; Maria Dolores still lives in Majorca.


The Spanish Civil War and World War II induced a deep pessimism in Miró. His spirits lifted after the wars, when he was living in Majorca, his mother’s original home. In 1956 the architect Josep Lluís Sert, a close friend, designed a spacious studio for him there, and Miró started turning out the exuberant and brilliantly colored paintings and sculptures of his later years.


Since Miró’s death, his later work has been rather neglected, especially in the United States. “After he died,” says Laura Coyle, curator of European Art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, “art historians and curators took over, and they cared only about his early work.” Coyle wanted to redress the imbalance by organizing, with William Jeffett, curator of exhibitions at the SalvadorDalíMuseum in St. Petersburg, Florida, a rare exhibition of the whimsical, sly, brightly painted sculptures of Miró’s later years. “We looked for four years and could not find a single painted sculpture by Miró in a public American museum,” she says.


Having completed its run at the Corcoran, the show, “The Shape of Color: Joan Miró’s Painted Sculpture,” is at the Dalí museum through May 4. Though it comprises only a dozen sculptures and a pair of models for his monumental structures, it is amplified by photographs and drawings from Miró’s notebooks. Some visitors may feel hoodwinked; Miró’s sketches for sculptures look deceptively like doodles, and the finished pieces look as if Miró had collected a bunch of odd objects, glued them together, then painted them in bright colors. In fact, Miró loved to collect junk and oddshaped stones for his sculptures. But as his lifelong friend Joan Prats, a Barcelona publisher and art collector, once noted, “When I pick up a stone, it’s a stone; when Miró picks up a stone, it’s a Miró.” And while the wonderful colors cloak the sculptures in airy lightness, heavy bronze lies beneath.


Miró would assemble objects on the floor, without gluing them together, and photograph them. (He would sometimes alter the images on the photo with a ballpoint pen.) Then he’d take the objects to a foundry for casting into a bronze sculpture, using the photos and drawings as guides. Most sculptors revel in the patina and solidity of bronze, especially for use in monuments and memorials, and Miró made several such bronzes earlier in his career. But in 1967, he began painting his new bronzes.



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