Miró assigned this pastel the title Woman, aiming for something "unpretentious and very ordinary," he said, but the work has come to be known as Opera Singer because of the figure's open mouth and what is often identified as sheet music in her right hand. She is rendered in acidic, highly saturated, and dissonant colors, with flagrantly displayed genitalia.
Curator, Anne Umland: This series of pastels mark a rather dramatic shift in Miró's practice up until this point. He later on described them as the first of what he would call his savage paintings. 1934 in particular is a troubling moment on the European stage. In the months leading up to the making of these works Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met for the first time. And then in October of this year, there were general strikes in Spain, and also there was violence in Barcelona. And you know from Miró's correspondence that he is keenly aware of the danger of the moment, and that it shocked these creatures into existence.
From the start, when Miró talked about them, he would say "These pastels are going to be very, very painted." And what pastel does, it's dry, and it's powdery, and it's chromatically very vivid. So, it is the type of medium that actually can capture and retain light.
And as you walk around the room and look at these figures, what you begin to realize is that they strain forward, out into our space. There is a very odd relationship between their world and ours. They sort of hover somewhere in between the two with these distended limbs, overinflated genitalia, these acidic, hallucinatory colors. It's as though to create monsters that register the anxiety of this particular moment in time.
Miró plays with this fine balance of things being humorous yet horrifying. They're kind of seductive and luscious, but then they're really kind of scary and repellant, what could be more antithetical to the classicizing ideals that were embraced by the various fascist parties than bodies that were swollen or distorted or grotesque?
Conservator, Jim Coddington: The flocked paper that you see here used in the works in this room is made by applying an adhesive or a paint to an artist paper. And then while it is still wet, essentially creating a cloud of dust of some material, it might be paper fibers. In some cases, it's been analyzed that in fact, it's a wool. In other cases it's something even coarser than that where it is almost like a fine sawdust. This cloud of material will settle down onto the wet adhesive paper and it will then be allowed to dry. And then Miró will begin to draw with pastel on that in an effort to create some contrasting texture.
And in the case of Opera Singer, the fibers are almost wood like there are like a fine, almost sawdust. And so as he drags the pastel across these fibers, it is very much caught by them and held in place. In some of these works Miró begins to remove some of that flocking material and reveals the somewhat smoother paper underneath.