Joan Miró. The Birth of the World. Montroig, late summer-fall 1925
Joan Miró

The Birth of the World

Montroig, late summer-fall 1925
On view
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
8' 2 3/4" x 6' 6 3/4" (250.8 x 200 cm)
Credit
Acquired through an anonymous fund, the Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Slifka and Armand G. Erpf Funds, and by gift of the artist
Object number
262.1972
Copyright
© 2015 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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.

Gallery label from 2015

Additional text

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."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist
René Gaffé (1887-1968), Brussels and Cagnes-sur-Mer. Acquired from the artist c. 1926 - 1968
Jane Gaffé (Jane Labie, Mrs René Gaffé), Cagnes-sur-Mer. Inherited from her husband, November 1968 - 1972
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Mrs. René Gaffé, Cagnes-sur-Mer, October 1972

If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please e-mail provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

Pictured above: Vasily Kandinsky. Panel for Edwin R. Campbell No. 2 (detail). 1914. Oil on canvas, 64 1/8 x 48 3/8" (162.6 x 122.7 cm). Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund (by exchange). © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource