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The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)

Joan Miró
(Spanish, 1893–1983)

1924. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 39 1/2" (64.8 x 100.3 cm)

At first glance this painting may look abstract, but it is a landscape filled with rich iconography and suggestions of political strife. The large beige circle is a cross-section of the trunk of a carob tree that sprouts a leaf and a giant, all-seeing eye bisected by the horizon line. The stick-figured hunter, with a lit pipe protruding from his mouth, holds a freshly killed rabbit in one hand and a smoking rifle in the other.

The scene is set in countryside of Catalonia, a politically autonomous region of Spain near the French border, with its own parliament, language, history, and culture. Catalan nationalism has been a subject of debate for over a century. Perhaps hinting at this contentious history, the Catalan-born Joan Miró depicts the French, Catalan, and Spanish flags in the background. The word “SARD,” short for “Sardana,” the national dance of Catalonia, is painted in the foreground. This word is also a reference to the fragmented letters and words found in Dadaist and Surrealist poetry.

In 1923 Miró moved from Montroig, just south of Barcelona, to Paris. The move meant a transition from painting directly from nature to working in a Paris studio. A few years later, Miró explained the impact on his work, stating, “I have managed to escape into the absolute nature, and my landscapes have nothing in common anymore with outside reality….”1

William S. Rubin, Miró in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1973), p. 21

A literary, intellectual, and artistic movement that began in Paris in 1924 and was active through World War II. Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s writings on psychology, Surrealists, led by André Breton, were interested in how the irrational, unconscious mind could move beyond the constraints of the rational world. Surrealism grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and artistic practices after World War I.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

Subject matter in visual art, often adhering to particular conventions of artistic representation, and imbued with symbolic meanings.

A line in works of art that usually shows where land or water converges with the sky.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

An artistic and literary movement that grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and conventional artistic practices during World War I (1914–18). Dada artists were disillusioned by the social values that led to the war and sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic by shocking people into self-awareness.

The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.

Stick Around
Joan Miró considered the figure of the hunter—with his trademark moustache, triangle head, and smoking pipe—to be a self-portrait. It is a recurring figure in many of his works.