The exhibition Miró, Gaudí, Gomis: The Magical Meaning of Art, co-organised with Fundació Joan Miró based on its collection, and curated by Teresa Montaner and Ester Ramos, highlights the creative affinities between Joan Miró and Antoni Gaudí, as well as the artists admiration for the architect through the photographs by Joaquim Gomis, first president of the Miró institution and a major promoter of Gaudís work.
The exhibition presents a selection of sculptures, ceramics and drawings by Joan Miró that enter into conversation with the photographs that Gomis took of Gaudís architecture, as well as an important series of etchings that, with the titles Sèrie Gaudí, Enrajolats and Gran rodona, Miró made in 1979 as a tribute to the architect.
This is a project that connects two of the most universally recognised personalities that Catalan culture has ever offered, and does so hand in hand with photographer Joaquim Gomis, who through his images knew how to capture Gaudís pioneering nature, and proposed a new interpretive reading of Mirós work that relates him to nature and traditional art while highlighting the great coincidences that exist between the artist and the architect. The photobooks Gomis published in the 1950s in collaboration with Joan Prats, art promoter and key figure in the development of the Fundació Joan Miró, collected these images and displayed them following a specific rhythmic sequence.
Following his death, Antoni Gaudís work practically fell into oblivion, and eventually managed to emerge from obscurity three decades later thanks to the continuous dissemination work carried out by a series of people linked to the worlds of art, architecture and culture in general. Among these people, Joan Miró and Joaquim Gomis contributed to this in a very prominent way. Miró, who had always recognised having close affinities with Gaudí, found in the architects work a source of inspiration, and vindicated his role as a forerunner through his own creations. On his part, Gomis became one of the main promoters of Gaudís work by means of his photographs. His ability to show the magnificent ensemble of Antoni Gaudís architecture through capturing specific details helped to uncover the architects genuinely modern character and approach.
As the curators of the exhibition, Teresa Montaner and Ester Ramos, point out: From an early age, Miró showed an interest in nature, similar to that of Gaudí, and like the architect, achieved a synthesis of his art through the observation of natural elements. When he went beyond the field of painting in the 1940s and 1950s, he became interested in the sculptural sense of Gaudís work and technical methods, as well as his desire to associate art and life. Towards the end of his career, Miró paid tribute to him through several series of etchings.
What Miró was interested in about Gaudí was not only the rhythm and structure of his architecture, but also the will to question different materials and methods of expression. Both artists understood nature as the source of their creations. Gaudí was inspired by it to create both structural elements and ornamentation. Following Gaudís example, Miró created moulds using objects in his everyday surroundings as well as natural elements, and incorporated them into his sculptures. When bringing them together and casting them in bronze, they transformed into fantastic beings, as can be seen in the selection of sculptures presented in the exhibition. He was also attracted to trencadís, a traditional technique based on reusing pieces of broken ceramic, which he incorporated into his sculptural and public work, and which he evokes in the series of 21 etchings that make up Sèrie Gaudí as well as in the 7 etchings of Enrajolats, through which he paid tribute to the architect in 1979.
Gaudí and Mirós photoscopes
Upon his return from exile following the end of the Spanish Civil War, Joaquim Gomis became one of the greatest propagators of Gaudís work. With the photographs he took of Gaudí and Mirós creations, an important photographic archive was created that contributed to promoting the work of both artists. The initiative, carried out by Gomis and Joan Prats, prompted the appearance of a series of publications, named photoscopes, which collected said material under different titles. Prats was in charge of the selection and the rhythmic sequence he felt Gomis images had to follow.
The photoscopes had their origin in the slide projectors known as magic lanterns, in which the concepts of movement and continuity were always present. La Sagrada Familia de Antonio Gaudí (1952) was the first of a group of photoscopes about the architect, in this case published on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Atmósfera Miró (1959), dedicated to the artists creative surroundings, was born from a selection of images taken at the house he had in Mont-roig, based on which Gomis and Prats offered a new interpretation of Mirós work, connected to the land and to traditional art.
Gaudí as seen by Miró
Miró and Gaudí met in the mid-1910s at drawing classes in Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc. At that time Gaudí already had important projects; Miró, on the other hand, was just beginning his career. Mirós admiration for the architect dates back to his early youth, perhaps due to sensing certain affinities between them or by sharing ties to Camp de Tarragona, where they had both lived.
Mirós first exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, where he presented a selection of work inspired by the French artistic currents of the end of the century, did not generate a positive result. But thanks to his relationship with the area of Mont-roig, his painting then took a turn and began to approach nature in a more intimate way. His reading of books by Goethe, Pascal, Whitman, Dante, and Saint Francis of Assisi also led him to take this step. Mirós time spent in the countryside studying the behaviour of nature was essential for the definition of the artistic synthesis of his work, in the same way that Gaudí, through discovering the structural and geometric rules that governed natural forms, was able to transform his architecture.
It wasnt until 1936 that Miró spoke publicly about Gaudí for the first time, and it was in the first interview that Cahiers dArt published with the Catalan painter while he was in exile in Paris as a result of the Spanish Civil War. In that interview, Miró insisted once again on the need for artists to be rooted in their own land, not in a political sense, but in a natural and cultural sense, as a form of artistic self-affirmation, and as a means to recover the magical and sacred attributes of art, the curators point out.
In this exhibition we have tried to illustrate Mirós links to the Catalan landscape by means of a drawing made by the artist in 1938, the year in which, feeling distressed for being exiled in Paris while the Francoist army was about to enter the city of Barcelona, he depicted himself metamorphosing into the mountain of Montserrat. The massifs rocks stand on either side of his head, representing his shoulders.
Gaudí, for his part, almost literally moved the orography of this mountain, crowning the portal of Hope of the Sagrada Família with a massive stone.
Faithful defenders of Gaudís work contributed to his work being revalued between the 1940s and 1950s. This increased his influence on Miró, who began working in bronze by first observing the sculptural character of Gaudís work, as well as the materials and technical procedures he employed.
Mirós first bronze sculptures were made using the casting technique at the Gimeno foundry. They represent images of a mythological universe based on Mediterranean tradition, very similar in appearance to the skylights, chimneys and ventilation towers on the roof of La Pedrera, where Gaudí tested his sculptural capacities using unconventional materials and techniques, combining stone and marble with trencadís, a technique based on reusing ceramic pieces, granting the sculptures great beauty and resistance.
Miró was also inspired by the moulding system that Gaudí used on the Nativity façade of the Sagrada Família, consisting of directly moulding in plaster the elements that are to be reproduced. The objects that make up Mirós sculptures came mainly from nature or from the traditional art universe. Once cast in bronze by means of lost-wax process, he brought them together to give life to new beings, reminiscent of the idols of ancient civilizations. Most of Mirós bronze sculpture work from the 1960s and 1970s, of which one can see a selection in this exhibition, was made following this procedure.
He also applied that same spirit to his sculpture work in ceramic, with which he created pieces of a primitive appearance. Once fired, he used to put them up against the telluric forces that once gave them life: I have had the experience of placing them in the middle of nature: they blend in and become a single element together with the landscape. In some of those ceramic pieces, such as Estela de doble cara (1956), he even allowed nature to leave its mark. Marks that, like those applied by the artist, give the work its magical character.
Miró understood art as a form of expression connected to everyday life. Thus he aspired to work in public spaces. Ceramics and sculpture allowed him to materialise this idea, while prehistoric art, Romanesque art and Gaudí were his references. When, together with ceramist Josep Llorens Artigas, he made the murals for the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (19561957) as well as the ceramics and sculptures for the Labyrinth at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence (1963), Park Güell served as inspiration. In the same way that Gaudí knew how to adapt to the terrain on which the park was built, Miró made his work integrate with the architecture and the landscape.
The need to work with weather-resistant materials also led Miró and Artigas to focus on Gaudís trencadís technique, which also gave the work wonderful colour. Later, in the mid-1970s and also under the influence of Gaudí, he made the Mosaic del Pla de lOs (1976), on La Rambla in Barcelona, a piece whose intention was to welcome the people who arrived to the city by sea. In the curators own words: Among the preparatory material for the piece there is a drawing with annotations that refer to inlays of broken glass, metal and other abandoned materials, as if it were a trencadís. However, it is again, above all, in the final destination of the project where the coincidence with Gaudí is most evident. Like the pavement of the main plaza in Park Güell, this piece had also been conceived to be stepped on, that is, to be incorporated into peoples everyday lives.
Tribute to Gaudí
Miró expressed his admiration for Gaudí throughout his life, and attributed to him the character of primitive man or of the Old Masters. An influence he explicitly revealed during the 1940s and 1950s, coinciding with the moment of revitalisation of Gaudís work.
As a result of everything that Gaudí meant to Miró, at the end of his career he paid tribute to him with several series of etchings. In each of these series he put his craft to the test, and with the help of master engraver Joan Barbará he explored the multiple possibilities the technique had to offer. The most extensive series is the one titled Gaudí (1979), in which Miró depicts a series of fantastic characters structured around the black graphic elements and coloured squares, with a marked insistence on using curved and wavy lines.
That same year, and with the help of the same master engraver, Joan Barbará, he created, among others, the Enrajolats series, in which he again made reference to the Gaudian technique, as well as Gran rodona I and II. Both versions of this latter etching evoke the impact that the shape of the main plaza had on him when he discovered it in Park Güell while he was preparing the murals for the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; a shape that he later also transferred to the pavement of the Mosaic del Pla de lOs.