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European & American Art
Dada / Surrealism gallery

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Joan MIRÓ

Spain 1893 – 1983

Paysage [Landscape] 1927 Title Notes: See IRN 11267 for perspex frame details
Montroig, Spain
paintings, oil on canvas
Technique: oil on canvas
Primary Insc: signed and dated l.l., oil, "Joan Miro/ 1927", inscribed verso "Joan Miro./ "Paysage"/ 1927."
129.9 h x 195.5 w cm
framed (overall) 143.0 h x 207.8 w x 6.5 d cm
Purchased 1983
Accession No: NGA 83.54
Subject: Art style: Surrealism
© Successió Miró/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy

Provenance:
  • the artist;
  • from whom bought by Pierre Colle, Paris;
  • with Galerie Pierre, Paris;
  • with Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in 1937;
  • Mr and Mrs Gordon Bunshaft, from November 1958;
  • bought through Galerie Beyeler, Basel, by the Australian National Gallery, March 1983
  • It is natural to see a blue sky above a red earth, especially as Joan Miró painted this work amidst the intense colours and bare terrain around Montroig (meaning ‘red mountain’) in Spain. The precisely modelled oval object which could either be a moon or a balloon, Miro stated many years after the painting was completed, was an egg. While the creature on the ground he referred to as a rabbit facing left could equally be a flower, a female cartoon character with bouncing breasts or huge lips!

    In line with Miró’s hope that we should be able to discover something new in a picture every time we see it, the blue sky could be the realm of the conscious mind, where we think we see everything lit by the clear light of reason, and the red earth the subterranean unconscious mind in which lurk forbidden and libidinous animal instincts. The string-like black line that crosses the horizon between the two realms – its not being attached to the balloon heightening the floating, dreamlike quality of the scene – could represent the bringing together of conscious and unconscious, reason and feelings.

    This is the most sparse painting of the Montroig landscape series and is likely to be the last of the group.


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • This is one of a group of six paintings with the same landscape format that Miró painted at the family farm at Montroig, a small village about 60 kilometres south of Barcelona, in the summer of 1927.1 Within this group the Australian National Gallery’s painting is conspicuous for its sparing use of images; its resonant, colour-filled emptiness.

    In an interview with Margit Rowell in 1972, Miró identified the rubbery yellow creature on the left as the head of a rabbit (looking left) and the round orb in the sky as an egg, a typically non-committal naming of images made so carefully curious and suggestive.2 After all, Miró’s ‘egg’ floats in the sky like a sun, a ‘solar egg’ perhaps, and is sprinkled with glinting seed and linked to the earth by a fine line, suggestive to some of a flower; before the 1972 interview with Rowell the painting was commonly called Landscape with rabbit and flower.3 Miró himself preferred to give the same title to all the paintings in the group—simply ‘Paysage’—leaving their interpretation open-ended. ‘In a picture it should be possible to discover new things every time you see it’, he said. ‘A picture must be fertile. It must give birth to a world. Whether you see in it flowers, people, horses, it matters little, so long as it reveals a world, something alive’.4

    It is the emptiness of the landscape, however, or rather the image of the landscape itself which is the most striking feature of the Gallery’s painting; a dramatic juxtaposition of red earth, painted flat and opaque, and an airy blue sky made by scumbling the thinned paint into the weave of the canvas. This landscape had its roots in the real countryside around Montroig. ‘I was very aware of wide, empty spaces punctuated by one tiny object. Miró later recalled. ‘I was particularly inspired by Cornudella, near Montroig, where my grandfather came from; the soil is so incredibly red.’5 Yet Miró’s painted landscape clearly transcends locality. Emptiness, sensitised by colour alone, was one extreme towards which his art constantly gravitated. ‘In my painting there are often tiny forms in vast empty spaces. Empty spaces, empty horizons, empty plains—everything that has been stripped bare has always impressed me.’6 Being the most ‘stripped bare’ of the Montroig landscapes of 1927, it is likely that the Gallery’s painting was the last of the group.

    A preliminary drawing for the Gallery’s painting can be found in the early sketchbooks housed in the Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona.7

    Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.170.

    1. Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró: Life and Work, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1962, p.515, cat. nos 179-84. In Miró’s first published interview, ’A Conversation with Joan Miró’, which appeared in the Catalan nationalist newspaper La publicitat (Barcelona) on 14 July 1928, Miró told the interviewer, Francesc Trabal: ‘That summer [1927] I went back to Montroig again where I painted seven huge canvases, and I felt that I had come to the end of that period’. The interview is reprinted in Margit Rowell (ed.), Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London: Thames and Hudson, 1987, pp.92-8.
    2. Rosalind Krauss and Margit Rowell, Joan Miró: Magnetic Fields, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1972 (exhibition catalogue), p.114. Rowell has also been the first to admit Miró’s reluctance to give specific identities to his images: cf Margit Rowell, ‘Miró in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art’, Artnews, vol. 73, no. 1, January 1974, pp.94-6.
    3. William Rubin (Miró in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973, p.38), has pointed out that Miró’s ‘egg’ resembles the orb which appears earlier in The Hunter 1923-24 (MOMA) to denote the sex of the sardine, the sex of the hunter with the addition of a few hairs and, with addition of tentacle-like rays, the sun - notably referred to by Miró in his description of this painting on another occasion as an ‘egg-shaped sun’ or ‘solar egg’ (see Gaeton Picon, Joan Miró: Catalan Notebooks, Geneva: Skira, 1977, p.64). A connection has also been made between the ‘stemmed’ form in the Gallery’s painting and the ‘flowering rod’ in Catalan Romanesque murals much admired by Miró (see R.T. Doepel, ‘Aspects of Joan Miró’s Stylistic Development 1920-1925’, MA thesis, Courtauld Institute, University of London, 1967, and Krauss and Rowell, op. cit., p.114.
    4. Miró, as quoted in an interview with Yvon Taillandier and first published in French as ‘Je travaille comme un jardinier …’, in XXe Siècle (Paris), no. 1, 15 February 1959, monthly supplement, pp.4-6, 15 (trans. Joyce Reeves, Société Internationale d’Art XXe Siècle, Paris, 1964).
    5. Picon, op. cit., pp.15-17.
    6. Taillandier, ‘Je travaille comme un jardinier …’, op. cit.
    7. We are grateful to William S. Lieberman for first alerting us to the existence of this drawing (correspondence with the Gallery, 24 January 1983) and to Rosa Maria Malet for subsequently confirming the existence of the drawing in the Joan Miró Foundation, Barcelona (correspondence with the Gallery, 11 October 1983).

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010