Joan Miro was a Spanish artist born in Montroig, Catalonia, Spain on April 20, 1893. Miro's education in painting began at the age of 14 in the School of Fine Arts of Barcelona under Modesto Urgell and Jose Pasco. In 1912 he studied at the Gali Academy, where Miro's interest in the allied arts was stimulated by Francesco Gali.
Miro's early works show the influence of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and the Fauves, whose works had been known in Barcelona through Jose Dalmau, who organized Miro's first one-man show in Barcelona in 1918. Miro went to Paris in 1919 where he met Picasso and responded to the innocent honesty of the Douanier Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). He synthesized these opposing influences in the next few years in work containing all the germs of his later style. After 1921 surrealism predominated over cubism in Miro's work, a surrealism of lines, circles, and cones distributed in a readable symbolism. The moustache appearing with the regularity and intensity of a psychological fixation, the sex symbols recurring up to the 1950's, and the rich colors and shapes of black and white which became typical of his work, were released by his contact with Dadism and the surrealist movement.
Miro collaborated with Max Ernst in designing the sets and costumes for Romeo and Juliet (1927) of the Ballets Ritsses of Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, and in 1928 he made a trip to Holland which resulted in his Dutch Interior (1928). He also turned to collages and constructions at this time, and painted a series of imaginary portraits. With the advent of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) his work became increasingly abstract and forbidding.
During World War II, Miro stayed at Palma de Mallorca where he painted a series of gouaches called "constellations" from the multitude of correlated shapes on their surfaces. The myriad details in black generate tension; yet the works are as witty and charming outwardly as any of his deeply possessed painting. Reacting from the "constellations," Miro produced a number of looser, opener works which herald the mellowness of his later painting.
In 1944 Miro began his association with Jose Artigas, the ceramist. In this field Miro's designs are logical extensions of the arbitrary shapes supplied by Artigas. A second burst of ceramic creativity culminated in the decorative walls commissioned for the UNESCO headquarters building in Paris (1955-1958). In 1947 he painted a mural for a restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, and from 1950 to 1951 he worked on another mural for the Harvard University Graduate Center. Lush areas of diaphanous colors appear in most of his work from 1950 to 1960.