ETHICS & AESTHETICS – Professor Robert Lubar Messeri

Ethics & Aesthetics


by Professor Robert Lubar Messeri

I. Ethics

“I would like to try my hand at sculpture, pottery, engraving, and have a press,” Miró wrote in 1938, as he imagined how a large studio would transform his artistic practice. “[I would also like to try], inasmuch as possible, to go beyond easel painting, which in my opinion has a narrow goal, and to bring myself closer, through painting, to the human masses I have never stopped thinking about.”Miró issued this statement while living in exile with his family in Paris. He had just completed a major mural commission for the Spanish Republican Pavilion of the Paris World’s Fair of 1937, where Picasso’s Guernica had garnered international attention. With the Civil War claiming new victims every day in Spain, and with Europe poised on the brink of disaster, Miró, like so many artists and intellectuals of his day, experienced a crisis of conscience over the role and function of art in contemporary society. “There is no longer an ivory tower,” he would insist a year later. “Retreat and isolation are no longer permissible. But what counts in a work of art is not what so many intellectuals want to find in it. The important thing is how it implicates lived facts and human truth in its upward movement.”2

Miró’s 1938 statement is the first public confirmation of his interest in ceramics. Three years later, in his “Working Notes” of 1941-42, he linked ceramics with popular, artisanal traditions in Mallorca, where he and his family had sought refuge from the Second World War. “Take earthen jars like the ones from Felanitx and make little turds on them with a pastry tube the way pastry cooks do,” he wrote, “put birds and shapes on them; incise shapes with a nail, too, as though doing a drypoint.”The reference to popular traditions was but one manifestation of Miró’s interest in returning to the “human masses” he had described in 1938, just as his comment about drypoint engraving suggests the extent to which his ceramic practice would also intersect with his work in other mediums. “You could work with a punch while the clay is still wet and make linear designs on them as well as reliefs with a pastry tube,” he imagined.

Miró’s musings reveal his working methods, in which long periods of thought were followed by intense periods of creative activity.Shortly after completing the “Working Notes” in the summer of 1942 he began to put his ideas into practice. That autumn Miró visited an exhibition of ceramics by his childhood friend Josep Llorens Artigas.Shortly thereafter he paid a visit to Artigas’s studio in Barcelona’s Sant Gervasi neighborhood, proposing that the two artists collaborate. This marked the beginning of a productive working relationship that would last four decades. “He was surprised by the materials and was excited by realizing in ceramics a series of sculptures and objects that he had been making through the years,” Artigas later recalled. Artigas, however, was not interested in having Miró merely decorate some of his vases, insisting that their work together “had to be an intimate collaboration in which each was responsible for the work of the other; it was not a question of decorative ceramics, but rather of making decoration a function of the material.”6

Artigas’s concerns at this time reveal an attitude that he and Miró had espoused since the early days of their friendship: a commitment to the “obra ben feta”—“the work done well”—in which artistic work was upheld as a moral paradigm within the larger framework of Catalan national and cultural regeneration. Artigas had served as Secretary of the Escola Superior dels Bells Oficis in Barcelona, an institution that was dedicated to teaching the applied and decorative arts in Catalonia and preparing a new generation of specialized workers. Although it was closely associated with the conservative political agenda of the ruling Lliga Regionalista, for Artigas its role transcended politics. The Escola elevated the applied arts from a secondary position as a handmaiden to architecture to that of an equal partner with the fine arts, building upon centuries of artisanal and popular traditions in Catalonia. It was the popular counterpart to the classicizing impulses of Catalan Noucentisme, an ideology of social and cultural management for the new century. As such it participated in a broader discourse about the ancient roots of the Catalan people, and by extension, of Catalan national identity and collective work.7

As a Catalan institution the school was closed in 1924 during the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, at which time Artigas left Barcelona to live and work in Paris. But the school’s ethos of work mediated by spiritual insight remained fundamental to Artigas’s thinking for the next six decades.

As he wrote that year: “Apprenticeship and ‘medium of expression’ are not to be confused. The artist places himself in a specific medium of expression, according to his aptitudes and vocation, and from the moment when he produces his first manifestation, his first work, these media, chosen by him, must be precise and specific. These media are the tools the artist uses in order to define himself. Apprenticeship is the process he follows to attain the proposed result. The first is a material element, the second is a spiritual element. The former is an external reality, the latter is an internal phenomenon of research into one’s personality.”8  Ceramic production, in Artigas’s thinking, was not about technical perfection or “craft,” but a path leading to the common sources of artistic inspiration. As Miró insisted years later in reference to his work in ceramics, “Human roots spring from the same sources on this planet.”9

It is not entirely clear when the two artists met. Both Miró and Artigas attended Francesc d’Assís Galí’s “Escola d’Art,” a progressive academy that was a precursor to the Escola Superior. By 1917, the two men had become close friends. Deeply committed to the project of Catalan cultural regeneration, they shared a belief that the origins of national affiliation were to be found in popular traditions rather than among the urban elites. Although Artigas espoused a more radical position at this time, writing essays on Bolshevism and the social question just as urban unrest and syndicalist activity threatened to destabilize the project of Catalan political consolidation, neither Artigas nor Miró were partisan thinkers.10 As Artigas stated during the Second Spanish Republic, “I accept the Communist doctrines, but not the discipline of Moscow.”11

What I want to call the “non-partisan engagement” of Miró and Artigas—their humanist position and their general antipathy to bourgeois society—was clearly in evidence in the period 1917-1923, and their ethical stance would have a decisive impact on their future collaborations. In 1919 Miró painted a self-portrait (fig. 1) in a red garibaldina, a costume worn by workers and peasants in Catalonia that was associated with the “red shirts” of Garibaldi’s troops. When the painting was submitted to the

Exposició Municipal d’Art in Barcelona in the spring of 1919, Miró identified his nationality as “Catalan” in the entry form.12 The portrait not only references the unifier of the Italian state—a clear indication of Miró’s own sense of Catalan identity—but also the ancient visual traditions of Catalonia. The portrait’s hieratic presentation recalls Catalan Romanesque mural painting (fig. 2), which Miró would again reference decades later when he worked with Artigas on a wall commission for UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris. As Miró later remarked, “Mural painting interests me because it requires anonymity, because it reaches the masses directly and because it plays a role in architecture.”13

Miró and Artigas’s social engagement at this time was a response to the cultural torpor of the ruling classes in Catalonia—those same urban, bourgeois elites he and Artigas disdained. When Miró celebrated his first one-man exhibition in February 1918, at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, Artigas published a scathing indictment of bourgeois incomprehension in the pages of La Veu de Catalunya, where he was employed as an art critic between 1917 and 1919. Dividing the public into three groups—a. those who like the exhibition, with or without reservations; b. those who are outraged by the exhibition; and c. those who respond to the exhibition with derision—Artigas argued that the moral responsibility of the modern artist was to be new and audacious rather than follow outmoded formulas. Invoking the radical individualism ushered in by the French Revolution, Artigas insisted on innovation in the face of conservatism.14 Modern artists, in his opinion, were “revolucionaris sense poble,” revolutionaries without a country.15

There is, perhaps, an inherent contradiction here between internationalism and populism, which Miró famously reconciled when he described himself as an “international Catalan.”16 In this configuration, the idea of the “popular” has more to do with universality and common cultural roots than it does with subaltern resistance. As Miró would later insist, “A profoundly individualistic gesture is anonymous. By being anonymous, it can attain universality. […] The more local a thing, the more universal it is.”17

For Miró and Artigas this ethical position had its counterpart in social action. In response both to the derision to which modern artists were subjected in Barcelona and social unrest in the Catalan capital during World War One, Miró, Artigas and a group of colleagues formed the “Agrupació Courbet” —the Courbet Group—around the time of Miró’s February 1918 exhibition (fig. 3). An outgrowth of the so-called “Escola de Vilanova” that had been founded in 1917,18 the “Courbetistas” insisted on their rightful place in the Barcelona cultural establishment and sought to mount exhibitions in the Catalan capital as well as in Girona, Bilbao, and Madrid.19

Miró’s former studio-mate Enric Cristòfol Ricart described the group’s dual admiration for Courbet as a painter and as an “audacious man.”20 Artigas, who acted as the group’s publicist and possibly secretary, later denied that the name had specific artistic or political connotations,21 but the historical evidence suggests otherwise. In response to a general strike that had been called by the “Confederación Nacional del Trabajo” for March 24–April 1, 1919, Artigas himself described the Agrupació Courbet as a “unique union” whose members “have been the heroes of the past events” for maintaining normalcy during a time of crisis.22 The implication here is that the artist himself is a kind of worker whose actions rise above political and social discord. Elsewhere, Artigas and Miró’s friend and fellow Courbetista Josep Francesc Ràfols insisted: “What the Courbet group esteemed most about the name of its patron was the memory of an act of rebellion, of non-conformity with the apathy of officialdom.”23 This attitude, a fundamentally ethical position, would become a battle cry for Artigas and Miró in their ceramic production. Gustave Courbet, the realist painter associated with political radicalism and popular traditions, was their guide.

II. Aesthetics

The fateful 1942 meeting of Miró and Artigas at the latter’s Sant Gervasi studio bore rich fruit in the form of close to seventy decorated vases, plaques, sculptural heads and figures produced in stoneware and earthenware over the course of 1944-1946. Miró’s first task was to master the technical complexity of working in ceramics, under Artigas’s tutelage. Over the course of his career

Artigas would produce over 3,000 formulas for ceramic glazes, opting never to repeat the same recipe (fig. 4). Each piece he created was unique and its surface articulation depended on the artist’s careful control of his recipes and the complex firing process. Artigas insisted on using a wood rather than a gas or electric kiln, as the element of chance—flame is harder to control— was essential to his aesthetic. Depending on the effects he wished to obtain for a given piece, the temperature of the kiln was carefully controlled, as was the amount and type of wood used, the degree of smoke produced, and the particular composition of the clay and the surface glazes/enamels. But the final effects could never be fully predicted. As Miró wrote in 1958, “In spite of the precautions one can take […] the ultimate master of the work is fire. Its action is unpredictable, and its power can be deadly. That is what creates the value of this means of expression.”24

For Artigas as for Miró, technique and artistry went hand in hand, but the hand itself was no guarantor of quality.25 Both men made a distinction between ceramic art as individual expression and industrial production. “Let us leave to the factory those things produced in series, useful and lovely but incapable of engendering emotion,” Artigas wrote in 1952. “The fact that an object has been made by hand is not enough for it to have life and beauty. We should not forget that the hand can be converted into the most perfect of machines when it is directed by routine rather than by feeling.”26 Regularity was to be avoided at all costs, so much so that when Miró began to work with Artigas in 1944 he chose vases and ceramic fragments that his friend had discarded because their

surfaces were irregular or their glazes faulty. He also destroyed a first batch of small decorative plaques because they appeared too much to mimic his pictorial oeuvre. If Miró and Artigas were to raise ceramics and ceramic sculpture to the stature of the fine arts, it would have to be on the medium’s own terms, not those of industry or preconceived craft aesthetics.27

Miró’s initial experiments with ceramics in 1944-46 had enormous implications for his later sculptural practice. The work he produced in those years falls roughly into two categories: plaques and decorated vases in which surface articulation retains a pictorial character (see pages 67 and 69), and sculpture in the round (see pages 71, 73 and 75). In the former category Miró had to think

spatially as he adapted his figuration to new formats: his signs had to follow the contours of a vase or the irregular surfaces of the plaques he decorated. Allowing accident to intervene at all phases of production, Miró relished the cracks and breaks in the enamel surface that occurred during firing, such that his plaques resemble aesthetic ruins. In all of these works, a certain formal atavism obtains as a conscious return to the primitive origins of civilization. Miró and Artigas would push this tendency further in their next collaboration during the years 1953-56.

The ceramic sculptures in the round point to an entirely different aesthetic conception than the plaques and vases, one that would have significant consequences for Miró’s sculpture in other mediums. Two stoneware objects of 1945 play on the visual connection between the medium of ceramics and its material substratum—earth or clay (see pages 71 and 73). With their hollowed out cavities and protruding phallic and breast-like forms, these objects have a range of associations, from Earth Mother and Ur-Goddess to the natural forms of caves, mountains, and volcanoes. The incised lines flanking the openings also suggest a hairy orifice, “the smile of my blonde” as Miró had mischievously titled a painting of 1924. Finally, the diminutive size of the earthenware Personnage terre rouge (see page 75) contrasts with its almost architectural scale, one that is suggestive of a natural arch or man-made portal.

All of these objects would have an afterlife in Miró’s cast bronze sculpture. One of the stoneware “Femmes” of 1945 exists in a glazed earthenware version of 1946. It was subsequently cast in bronze as Maternity in 1967, and then significantly enlarged and recast in 1973. The other “Femme” of 1945 was reproduced in earthenware in 1956 and titled The Goddess. In 1963 it was dramatically enlarged and installed in the “labyrinth” Miró had created for the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de Vence, France. Finally, Personnage terre rouge was produced in three other versions with distinct surface finishes. It would ultimately morph into the giant arch of the Fondation Maeght.

III. Firestones

Miró’s second campaign of work with Artigas between the years 1953 and 1956 yielded entirely different results. If the early ceramics bear a close relationship with Miró’s monumental work in cast bronze, the ceramics of the 1950s point to another aspect of Miró’s sculptural practice as a form of bricolage. The origins of this practice date to a series of collages on the theme of the “Spanish Dancer” that Miró executed in 1928, as well as the object-sculptures he produced between 1931 and 1936 in which he employed a range of found objects whose identities and meanings he transformed. This practice was directly related to the ceramic sculptures he would produce with Artigas in the mid-1950s, as suggested by a letter he wrote to his friend on July 6, 1954. “If you come down to Barcelona let me know,” he insisted, “I must show you the new material that I have prepared for you. The most important, coming out of the objects you saw—“Projects for a Monument”—will allow you to throw yourself into the materials that you alone are capable of finding and we will jump headfirst into a new conception of ceramics, leaving aside the ever-present plate and vase.”28

The “Project for a Monument” comprise a series of seven sculptures composed of found objects (fig. 5). The strength of this new conception of sculpture lies in the ironic transformation of commonplace objects through semantic realignment: through a relation of similitude, a hook becomes the genitals of a personnage, while a piece of bent iron configures the volume of a body in space. The possibility of taking this practice a step further into the domain of ceramic sculpture intrigued Miró, who understood the potential to realize the “phantasmagoric world of living monsters” he had described in his “Working Notes” of 1941-42.29 In effect these were not so much monuments as they were “anti-monuments,” an ironic re-inscription of the memorial function of public sculpture.

Although Miró and Artigas, now working in close collaboration with Artigas’s son Joanet, did not begin firing the new work until February 24, 1954,30 the origins of Miró’s conception date to 1927. In that year Miró declared that he wanted to “assassinate painting,” by which he meant to challenge the entire social edifice that transformed art into a luxury commodity in bourgeois society.31 This would bear directly on his unorthodox use of collage in the “Spanish Dancers” of 1928 and in the “Project for a Monument” of 1954. Indeed, in another letter to Artigas dated July 21, 1955, Miró explicitly referred to his conception of “anti-art”: “I’ve thought a lot about our work and I believe it’s important to insist on primary materials with a maximum brutality, anti-ceramics and anti-art, if I can express it that way, in opposition to others with a maximum of refinement and finish.”32  In Miró’s work art and anti-art were the two poles of a single aesthetic practice.

If, however, Miró looked retrospectively back upon his early work at this time, he identified his militant position with a broader humanist project in which ceramics occupied center stage. As he told Josep Lluis Sert in a letter dated November 9, 1947, “I feel more strongly than ever about what we’ve always said: that easel painting is only good as a form of relaxation and to achieve poetry—and that is valuable in itself—but what we must pursue is a broad human and collective, almost anonymous scope.”33 Having worked with Artigas on a first collaboration during 1944-46, Miró was already thinking about how the lessons he had learned might be applied to a future working campaign. Indeed, he suggestively titled a text in his notebook dated May 18, 1948, “From the Assassination of Painting to Ceramics,” indicating that he was already thinking ahead to the future. In one poetic inscription he challenged the association of ceramics with utility and aesthetic beauty: “ceramics that can be thrown/in the face during the ecstasies of/LOVE/in which lovers eat/water cress before those ecstasies/not these glass cabinets rigid with pieces of porcelain/the colour of the tits of decadent dancers dancing on/the Seine on a foggy day.”34

Miró’s combative language during these years suggests that he was not entirely satisfied with the work he had produced in 1944-46, some of which had been exhibited at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1945.35 Concerned that his new work might not be to his dealer’s liking, Miró assured Matisse in a letter dated January 16, 1956, that that ceramics would give his pictorial work a “new élan.”36 Matisse responded 10 days later, admitting “I didn’t see any future in this [earlier] conception of ceramics, nor did I understand how you, who is all about invention in form and in materials, could be satisfied with this genre of ceramics.” To reassure Miró, he added, “When Sert spoke to me about large plaques and other projects, that was an entirely different question, and for that reason I immediately wrote to you. We are now in a completely different domain—that of invention itself—in which you are one of the great Masters. It is for this reason that I am interested in these ceramics, as I am in the rest of the living parts of your work.”37

Miró and Artigas’s new ceramic production was exhibited first at the Galerie Maeght, Paris, in June 1956, and subsequently at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in December.38 Rather than calling their new work “ceramics,” Artigas and Miró chose the term “Terres de grand feu,” (fig. 6) or “firestones,” to emphasize the almost alchemical processes through which the works were created. The 232 pieces that were produced included: freestanding sculptures conceived in the vein of the “Project for a Monument” (see page 81); vases in which Miró responded to the exquisite surface finishes of Artigas’s glazes with freely drawn signs that were painted and/or etched into the enamels; a series of glazed eggs with surface inscriptions in enamel or deeply incised markings; plates; anti-plates; disks; plaques; and what Miró and Artigas called “galets” (see pages 77 and 79)—small pebble-like objects with rich surface details. In the case of the ceramic object-sculptures or “anti-monuments,” Miró and Artigas exploited the full potential of the ceramic medium to mimic a wide range of forms and textures. Fantastic, grotesque heads are attached by metal supports to bases that are also bodies. The clay is expressively modeled, often with deep gashes in the surface that suggest natural forms ranging from rocks to petrified wood. In one case, Miró and Artigas created small ceramic stones that they impressed into the surface of the clay, creating a kind of material aggregate that resembles concrete or a dried river bed. In other cases the supports are based on common objects or natural forms that Joan Gardy Artigas first interpreted in clay. As with the “Projects for a Monument,” irony is everywhere present, as the extended “limbs” of a watering can or a porrón are transformed into the arms of a figure (see page 85). In at least two instances, Miró and Artigas returned to a form they had first used in the 1944- 46 works in order to build new, composite objects.

The inventive enamels, surface finishes, textures and hybrid forms that Miró and Artigas achieved in these objects sets them apart from the works of 1944-46, marking one of the great moments in ceramic sculpture of the 20th century.39 The material substratum, clay, is everywhere in evidence as Miró and Artigas remained truthful to their materials. With their strong associations of organic growth, erosion and even petrification, these objects and anti-monuments suggest decay, corrosion, and the excavated remnants of a lost civilization.40

 IV. Toward a Public Art

The work that Miró and Artigas produced from 1944-46 and 1953-56 tested their technical expertise and creative energies. The size of the objects was conditioned by the height and interior capacity of the kilns Artigas used, while their challenge to traditional craft methods existed within the framework of what remained a studio practice. It was not until 1955, when Miró received a commission to produce two ceramic murals for the UNESCO world headquarters in Paris (figs. 7 and 8), that the public art he and Artigas had long envisioned would come to fruition. This was a defining moment for both men, the event that put their most ambitious ideas to the test. Everything up to that point had in a sense been a prelude to the great mural art they were about to create.

The story of the UNESCO commission and Artigas and Miró’s working methods has been recounted numerous times in the literature: the need to develop a studio practice that would match the ambitions of the project; the production of reduced and full-scale maquettes that would function more as conceptual guides than as definitive models;41  the question of scale in relation to the building; the need to humanize the brutalist, imposing architecture of Marcel Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss, and Pier Luigi Nervi;42 and specific technical challenges that had to be overcome, including engraving some of the shapes at a depth of 4-5 centimeters so they would not be annihilated by the play of light, and applying enamel pastes to large areas of the mural with a broom made of palm fronds so as to preserve spontaneity. 43 After initially firing some 250 tiles in 33 batches, Miró and Artigas were dissatisfied with the results they had achieved and destroyed the tiles. The sizes of the tiles were uniform, and their surfaces were too inert and uninflected. The solution came as a kind of epiphany when the two artists visited the Collegiata Romanesque Church of Santillana del Mar, the village where the Altamira Caves were located. Its irregular walls and rough surfaces immediately suggested a path forward.44

In 1950 Artigas had participated in the “Primera Semana de Arte” in Santillana del Mar, where he spoke about the lessons of the cave painters: “It is the masters of Altamira, our classics, who since the time when, by virtue of their immense distance from us, have ceased to be time, and by virtue of a work which being eternal, is of today and tomorrow, act as our guides and exhort us to work and search together, each one with his specific individuality, for a common denominator, and thus to divulge what it is that unites us.”45 The conceptual gestation of the UNESCO project involved a visit with Miró to the Altamira Caves, and Miró in turn advised Artigas to study the Romanesque murals that were housed in one of Barcelona’s museums, as well as to visit Gaudí’s Parc Guëll.

Upon completing the two murals Miró published a statement in Derrière le Miroir in which he expressed his ideas about their social significance. “Mural art is the opposite of solitary creation,” he wrote, “but although you must not give up your individual personality as an artist, you must engage it deeply in a collective effort.”46 A year later he clarified his position: “Anonymity has always reigned during the great periods of history. And today the need for it is greater than ever. But, at the same time, there is a need for the absolutely individualistic gesture, something completely anarchic from the social point of view. Why? Because a profoundly individualistic gesture is anonymous. By being anonymous, it can attain universality, I am convinced of it. The more local a thing, the more universal it is. This accounts for the importance of folk art: there is a great unity between the whistles made in Majorca and certain Greek artifacts.”47

With these words Miró’s thinking came full circle. The desire he expressed in 1938 to bring himself closer to the human masses, an attitude he shared with Artigas, had been realized with the execution of his first mural commission. More mural collaborations with Artigas would follow, as would private studio work in ceramic sculpture, decorated vases, plaques and plates, but the UNESCO commission represented a defining moment for the two artists. Plumbing the depths of human civilization from popular traditions and medieval architecture and mural painting to contemporary public art, Miró and Artigas traced a temporal arc between the distant past and the immediate present. In the process they developed a new aesthetics for 20th-century ceramics that was also an ethical model for social participation and inclusion.

1 Joan Miró, “I Dream of a Large Studio” XXe Siècle (Paris), May 1938, reprinted in Margit Rowell, Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986, pp. 161-162.

2 Joan Miró, “Statement,” Cahiers d’Art (Paris), April–May 1939, in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, p. 166.

3 Joan Miró, “Working Notes, 1941-42; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 175-195.

4 Miró to Artigas, July 18, 1954: “Very pleased with what you tell me about the preparation of the work. I am also preparing things. For our future stage the most important thing is the long gestation. The realization will be done rapidly and without remorse.” Artigas. El hombre del fuego, exh. cat., Sala de Exposiciones La Pedrera (CatalunyaCaixa), Barcelona, 2002, pp. 138-139.

J. Llorens Artigas, Galería Argos, Barcelona, November– December 1942.

6 Josep Llorens Artigas, “Una amistat de cinquanta anys,” in Miró- Barcelona, Sala Gaspar, 1964; reprinted in Artigas. El hombre del fuego, p. 136.

7 “All Catalan artists, all those who through their studies and their love of the arts have acquired a personality within our spiritual rebirth, must create a sympathetic and collaborative environment that nurtures collective work.” “L’ensenyament dels Bells Oficis, Empresa Nacional,” La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona), Pàgina artística no. 562, August 20, 1922; in Ricard Mas, ed, Josep Llorens Artigas. Escrits d’art. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 1993, pp. 66-68.

8 J. Llorens Artigas, “El valor de l’aprenentatge en l’obra d’art. L’exemple d’en Jaume Mercadé,” La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona), January 26, 1924; cited by Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas. Catàleg d’obra. Barcelona: Edicions Polígrafa, 1992, p. 416, n. 132.

9 Rosamond Bernier, “Miró as Ceramist,” L’Oeil (Paris), May 1956; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 234-236.

10 For a discussion of Miró’s political position, see Robert S. Lubar, “Miró’s Commitment,” in Marko Daniel and Matthew Gale, eds., Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2011.

11 “Informacions de La Revista. Questionari,” La Revista (Barcelona), January–June 1933; cited by Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas, p. 413, n. 115.

12 Robert S. Lubar, “Miró’s Linguistic Nationalism,” Cent anys de Miró, Mompou i Foix: Doctors Honoris Causa. Barcelona: Publicacions de la Universitat de Barcelona, 1994, pp. 9-37; reprinted in Paris/ Barcelona, exh. cat., Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 2002.


13 Joan Miró, in Yvon Taillandier, “I Work Like a Gardener,” XXe Siècle (Paris), February 15, 1959; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 247-253.


14 “The French Revolution happened because the individual was free to work and to interpret, and there is no reason to remove drawing and painting from these beneficial consequences.” Josep Llorens Artigas, “Les Pintures d’En Joan Miró,” La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona), Pàgina artística no. 423, February 26, 1918, p. 5; the full article and english translation are published into this catalogue (see pages 24-25).

15 Josep Llorens Artigas, “Les pintures d’En Delaunay,” published on June 3, 1918; in Mas, Josep Llorens Artigas. Escrits d’art, pp. 37-41.

16 Joan Miró, letter to E.C. Ricart dated July 18, 1929; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, p. 73.

17 Joan Miró, “I Work Like A Gardener,” in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings

and Interviews, p. 252.

18 The Escola de Vilanova was comprised of Miró, Josep Francesc Ràfols, Enric Ricart, and Rafael Sala. The term was first used by J[oan] S[acs] in his review of Sala’s 1917 exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau (“Exposición Rafael Sala en las Galerías Dalmau,” La Publicidad, Barcelona, March 2, 1917, p. 5). Miró’s name was not

cited. Several months later, however, the poet Josep Maria Junoy included Miró’s name in the second published reference to the Escola. (Troços no. 2, Barcelona, October 1, 1917).

19 The first public reference to the Courbet Group is a notice published in La Publicidad (Barcelona), on February 28, 1918, corresponding with Miró’s exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau. The group’s members are listed as Miró, Francesc Domingo, Ricart and Sala. The same names were cited on March 4, 1918, in a notice that appeared in La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona), Pàgina artística, no. 424. Soon after its formation, the group expanded to include Ràfols, Marià Espinal, Ramón Sunyer, Joaquim Torres Garcia, and Rafael Barradas. By 1919, Rafael Benet, Josep Beltrán, Josep Obiols, and Josep de Togores had also joined. For a full analysis of the discrepancies in the literature concerning the Courbet Group, see Robert S. Lubar, “Miró Before The Farm, 1915-1922: Catalan Nationalism and the Avant-Garde,” Unpublished doctoral thesis, New York University, 1988, pp. 120-126.

20 Enric Cristòfol Ricart, Memòries. Barcelona: Parsifal Edicions, 1995.

21 Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas, p. 401.

22 Josep Llorens Artigas, “Partita IV: la qüestió social,” La Veu de Catalunya (Barcelona) Pàgina artística no. 475, April 28, 1919; in Mas, Josep Llorens Artigas. Escrits d’art, p. 51.

23 Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas, p. 401. See also the monograph by J.F. Ràfols, E.C. Ricart. Vilanova i la Geltrú: El Cep i la Nansa, 1981, p. 104.

24 Joan Miró, “My Latest Work is a Wall,” Derrière le Miroir (Paris), June–July 1958; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 242-245. Elsewhere Miró explained, “What I like about ceramics is the way in which you have to overcome technical contradictions. And then there is the unexpected, the element of surprise.

For me, doing ceramics is a little like becoming an alchemist. I find it more alive than working with bronze.” Denys Chevalier, “Miró,” Aujourd’hui: Art et Architecture (Paris), November 1962; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 262-271.

25 Artigas wrote in 1930, “Fire always places itself between the artist and the work. The former can never dedicate enough efforts to this element, upon which the perfect realization of his work depends. Fire cannot but sanction errors and permit successes to flower. When it works on its own behalf it can produce things of beauty, just as nature gives us minerals. But fire will never blow life into them the way that man, with his power of creation, is able to do.” Josep Llorens Artigas, “Intimitats ceràmiques,” Mirador (Barcelona), no. 252, November 30, 1930, in Artigas. El hombre del fuego, p. 78.

26 Josep Llorens Artigas, “Intervención en la Conferencia Internacional de Cerámica Dartington Hall,” United Kingdom, 1952, in Artigas. El hombre del fuego, pp. 43-45.

27 Speaking of his ceramic production of the years 1954-56, Miró told Rosamond Bernier, “In some pieces I used a very limited range of colors—which made them all the more powerful and expressive—but in other pieces I let myself go and used all the techniques and colors according to where the work was taking me—completely ignoring questions specific to the ‘craft.’” Rosamond Bernier, “Miró as Ceramist,” in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 234-236.

28 Miró to Artigas, letter of July 6, 1954, in Artigas. El hombre del fuego, p. 138.

29 In his “Working Notes” of 1941-42 Miró wrote, “it is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional.” Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, p. 175.

30 According to Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas, p. 421, the 232 pieces that resulted from this new collaboration involved 80 firings over the course of 27 months. The last firing was conducted on May 10, 1956.

31 On Miró’s “assassination,” see Anne Umland, “Miro the Assassin,” in Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009, pp. 1-15.

32 Miró to Artigas, letter of July 21, 1955, in Artigas. El hombre del fuego, p. 138.


33 Letter from Miró to Josep Lluís Sert, November 19, 1947; cited by Rosa Maria Malet, “From Miró to Barcelona,” in De Miró a Barcelona. Barcelona: Fundació Joan Miró, 2014, p. 157.

34 The full text and the accompanying drawings by Miró are published into this catalogue, see pages 28-41.

35 Joan Miró: Ceramics 1944, Tempera Paintings 1940-41, Lithographs 1944, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, January 9–February 3, 1945.


36 Unpublished letter from Miró to Pierre Matisse, dated January 16, 1956. Pierre Matisse Archives, The Morgan Library, New York. Miró’s reference to his pictorial production is particularly telling, as between the years 1955 and 1959 he almost entirely abandoned painting as he worked closely with Artigas on commissioned and non-commissioned work. Miró also worked on graphic projects during these years.

37 Unpublished letter from Pierre Matisse to Miró, dated January 26, 1956. Pierre Matisse Archives, The Morgan Library, New York.

38 Miró, Artigas, Galerie Maeght, Paris (June 15–August, 1956); Sculpture in Ceramic by Miró and Artigas, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, December 4–31, 1956.

39 According to T. Sánchez-Pacheco, “All kinds of decorative procedures were used: glaze, lead-glaze, slip, oxides mixed with alumina. The glaze was sometimes scratched away to reveal the clay’s coarseness.” T.Sánchez-Pacheco, “Joan Miró’s Ceramic World,” Miró ceramista, exh. cat., Palacio de la Virreina, Barcelona,

1993, pp. 11-16.

40 In a discussion of monumentalism and anti-monumentalism in postwar art, Robert Slifkin observes that the references in Miró and Artigas’s work to deterioration and fragmentation suggests a temporal dimension in which history and modernity devolve into prehistory and archaicism at a time when “the monument’s principal function of preserving memory into a limitless future collapsed as the future of the world itself became endangered by new technologies of destruction.” Robert Slifkin, “Joan Miró and Detrital Monumentalism in Post-war Sculpture,” in Robert Lubar Messeri, ed., Miró and Twentieth Century Sculpture. Barcelona: Fundació Joan Miró, 2015, pp. 70-87.

41 In an unpublished letter to Artigas dated April 2, 1957, Miró insisted “I will use the maquette only as a point of departure and I will pay much more importance to what the ground suggests to me and what the accidents dictate.” Josep Llorens Artigas Archives, Gallifa.

42 In an unpublished letter to Artigas dated July 28, 1957, Miró writes, “This modern, collective architecture, these perfect machines need the brutal shock of the individual to give life to it and to humanize it.” Josep Llorens Artigas Archives, Gallifa.

43 Unpublished letter from Miró to Artigas, dated August 31, 1956. Josep Llorens Artigas Archives, Gallifa.

44 “To speak in coarse terms, we need to think of this surface as a border or pavement made by a peasant rather than something made by a worker following the instructions of an architect.” Unpublished letter from Miró to Artigas dated July 28, 1957. Josep Llorens Artigas Archives, Gallifa.

45 José Llorens Artigas, “Primera Semana de Arte de Santillana de Mar, 1950,” in Francesc Miralles, Llorens Artigas, p. 418.

46 Joan Miró, “My Latest Work is a Wall,” Derrière le Miroir (Paris), June–July 1958; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 242-245.

47 Joan Miró, in Yvon Taillandier, “I Work Like a Gardener,” XXe Siècle (Paris), February 15, 1959; in Margit Rowell, Selected Writings and Interviews, p.252.