Here Miró applied paint to an unevenly primed canvas in an unorthodox manner—pouring, brushing, and flinging—so that the paint soaked into the canvas in some places while resting on the surface in others. On top of this relatively uncontrolled application of paint, he added schematic lines and shapes planned in preparatory studies. The bird or kite, shooting star, balloon, and figure with white head may all seem somehow familiar, yet their association is illogical. Miró once said that The Birth of the World describes "a sort of genesis," an amorphous beginning out of which life may take form.
MoMA Audio: Collection, 2008
Curator, Anne Umland: Miró's painting, The Birth of the World, is a combination of chance and careful planning. We know that Miró first worked on this evocative, freely constructed background, and then went back to notebooks, and overlaid, in a very calculated, hard-edged, exacting way, these delineated forms: the black triangle, the red sphere, and this wonderful yellow, thin, cursive, calligraphic line that descends from what has at times been described as a balloon or a spermatozoa. This picture in every sense is about origins, a sort of genesisa birth of a new world.
There is an utter, absolute schism between this background and then these images laid on the top of it. It is the opposite of any unified, continuous space, which is just one of the ways that this picture goes, as the Surrealists were fond of saying, beyond painting. And that is beyond the conventions of painting as they were known in 1925, when Miró painted this absolutely remarkable revolutionary work.
The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999
According to the first Surrealist manifesto of 1924, "the real functioning of the mind" could be expressed by a "pure psychic automatism," "the absence of any control exercised by reason." Miró was influenced by Surrealist ideas, and said, "Rather than setting out to paint something, I begin painting and as I paint, the picture begins to assert itself. . . . The first stage is free, unconscious." But, he added, "The second stage is carefully calculated."
The Birth of the World reflects just this combination of chance and plan. Miró primed the canvas unevenly, so that paint would here sit on the surface, there soak into it. His methods of applying paint allowed varying degrees of control—pouring, brushing, flinging, spreading with a rag. The biomorphic and geometric elements, meanwhile, he drew deliberately, working them out in a preparatory drawing.
Miró's works in this vein suggest something both familiar and unidentifiable, yet even at his most ethereal, Miró never loses touch with the real world: we see a bird, or a kite; a shooting star, a balloon on a string, or a spermatozoa; a character with a white head. The Birth of the World is the first of many Surrealist works that deal metaphorically with artistic creation through an image of the creation of a universe. In Miró's words, it describes "a sort of genesis."