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The Captured Imagination: Drawings by Joan Miró from The Fundacio Joan Miró, Barcelona

October 3–November 29, 1987

The great modern Spanish master Joan Miró (1893-1983) has often been characterized as a spontaneous and childlike Surrealist whose paintings emerged unrehearsed and fully formed. Over 150 works on paper never before seen in this country dispel that myth and furnish proof that reflection, rather than impulse, informed his work. The drawings, executed in black and colored pencil, charcoal, ink, ink wash, pastel, gouache, watercolor, oil, and collage, were selected from approximately 5,000 given by the artist to the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, in 1975. The artist rarely showed his drawings during his lifetime, treasuring them as his most private work. Miró settled in Paris in the 1920s where he encountered a broad spectrum of Cubist, Dada, and Surrealist work. Inspired and liberated by what he saw, he began painting daring compositions influenced as much by his poet friends as by other painters. As the drawings more clearly illustrate, his motifs were frequently drawn from nature: birds, fish, snails, the sun, the stars, rain. Although the forms and colors on his canvases are often far removed from the initial reference, Miró stressed that they "possess a profound reality. . . . [are] a part of the real itself." Miró viewed drawings as suggestions for future projects; they served as a sort of dictionary of ideas. Many are hastily sketched and include French or Catalan notations which indicate the direction he might follow: "for sky see Italian primitives," "make stone shapes solid," "still too realist." The exhibition also reveals little-known but important moments of his work, such as a striking group of 1933 collages in which cut-out newspaper illustrations plot the compositions for oil paintings; and a fascinating series of nude figure studies made in 1937. The drawings are displayed with the Museum's own holdings of work by Miró, one of the finest collections in the United States. Among the Museum's celebrated paintings from the 1920s and 1930s, the artist's most fertile and experimental period, are Dog Barking at the Moon (1926), one of the first paintings by Miró to be shown publicly in the United States, Person in the Presence of Nature (1935), whose savage imagery expresses the artist's response to impending civil war in Spain, and one of Miró's most magical early works, Still Life with Toy Horse and Red Flower.


The American Federation of Arts


Philadelphia Museum of Art
Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

Main Building


The exhibition was supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Patrons of the American Federation of Arts. International transportation was provided by Iberia Airlines. The Miró installation in Philadelphia was supported by The Pew Memorial Trust and the CIGNA Foundation.


Margit Rowell
Ann Percy

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