|Tête de Paysan Catalan|
Tate and Scottish National
Gallery of Modern Art
As the tanks rumble into Barcelona, Miro escapes with his family to Paris, where he works on the Spanish Republican pavilion. Yet he doesn't produce an overtly political masterpiece like Picasso's Guernica. Miro's work is difficult to interpret, reaching for a vocabulary which has been developed over several years.Yet his title "Le Faucheur" - The Reaper - is an explicit reference to Els Segadors, the Catalan national anthem (incidently, as a protest against the banning of the Catalan language, Miro always gave his paintings French names).
For many years under Franco, Miro painted little, concentrating on pottery. He lived on Mallorca, enjoying international fame but little recognition at home since he refused to participate in state-sponsored shows. When a major retrospective was put on in Barcelona, Miro countered with a project entitled Miro Otro in which traditional dynamic of a multi-work exhibition was challenged by a vast, temporary collaborative mural constructed with young radical artists.
Even as an old man, focussing on a starling series of meditative triptychs which have been heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism, he responds to political repression in Catalonia, and in particular the sentence to death of Salvador Puig Antich, by painting The Hope of a Condemned Man.
What this exhibition does so well is to demonstrate in broad terms the way in which Miro's work has developed, but then to use the political context as a means to highlight aspects of his art. The political is never overplayed, the art is paramount, and this is exemplified by the way in which The Hope of a Condemned Man is displayed alongside explicitly non-political works. The net effect is to make a significant and highly intelligent enhancement of one's understanding of such an important aspect of Miro the person, the artist and of his works.