Related themes


Tapping the Subconscious: Automatism and Dreams

Discover how Surrealist artists tapped the creative potential of the subconscious mind.


The Birth of the World

Joan Miró
(Spanish, 1893–1983)

1925. Oil on canvas, 8' 2 3/4" x 6' 6 3/4" (250.8 x 200 cm)

Joan Miró said that The Birth of the World depicts “a sort of genesis”—the amorphous beginnings of life. To make this work, Miró poured, brushed, and flung paint on an unevenly primed canvas so that the paint soaked in some areas and rested on top in others. Atop this relatively uncontrolled application of paint, he added lines and shapes he had previously planned in studies. The bird or kite, shooting star, balloon, and figure with white head may all seem somehow familiar, yet their association is illogical.

Describing his method, Miró said, “Rather than setting out to paint something I began painting and as I paint the picture begins to assert itself, or suggest itself under my brush.… The first stage is free, unconscious.”1

William Rubin, Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1968), 68.

The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception. The Surrealists derived much inspiration from psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s theories on dreams and the workings of the subconscious mind.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent.

The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.

A long mark or stroke.

Multimedia

LISTEN UP!
AUDIO: Curator Anne Umland describes The Birth of the World