Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927–1937

Joan Miró. _Un Oiseau poursuit une abeille et la baisse_. Paris, January–mid-February 1927.

Joan Miró. "Un Oiseau poursuit une abeille et la baisse". Paris, January–mid-February 1927

Spanish, 1893–1983 Oil, aqueous medium, and feathers on glue-sized canvas, 32 7/8 x 40 1/4" (83.5 x 102.2 cm). Private collection Photograph: John Wronn. © 2008 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Narrator: Curator Anne Umland.

Curator, Anne Umland: We're looking at a picture, Un Oiseau poursuit une abeille et la baisee. This translates as a bird pursues a bee.

This picture is one of a number that Miró made early in 1927 on raw unprimed canvas. And it's also in 1927 that…Miró's verbal attacks on the grand tradition of painting went public. And this turn to using unprimed, largely untouched canvas surfaces as a predominant element in his work.

There is actually a clump of feathers… adhered in the upper edge of the picture. You have the words for a bird, a feather, then the trajectory of its flight traced out in this beautiful…calligraphic meandering black scripted line, poursuit. And the way that the… U sort of escapes and flies up like…another symbol of flight, at the same time as the letters curve on down.

Narrator: Conservator Jim Coddington.

Conservator, Jim Coddington: In L'Oiseau, Miro has applied his materials in a seemingly rapid and almost haphazard fashion, but in fact there passages that are very carefully thought out and applied. Looking closely at the string of yellow paint, one can see that in fact it is very carefully applied over a previously existing greyer or a slightly brownish paint throughout that the entire passage.

Anne Umland: And then down on the bottom,…you realize that that pool of blue, which is just built up in this swimmingly luscious, almost lascivious fashion, is as much a collage element and a real material element as the feather. And so Miró makes you…step back and say well, is this a painting? Or a collage? Or something entirely different? The questions these works pose are as important as the answers.

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