Collection 1880s–1940s

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Joan Miró. The Birth of the World. Montroig, late summer-fall 1925 500

Oil on canvas, 8' 2 3/4" x 6' 6 3/4" (250.8 x 200 cm). Acquired through an anonymous fund, the Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Slifka and Armand G. Erpf Funds, and by gift of the artist. © 2024 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curator, Anne Umland: Hello, my name is Anne Umland.

Conservator, Anny Aviram: I’m Anny Aviram. I'm a painting conservator here at MoMA

Anne Umland: And one of my most favorite people to talk about paintings with. So this is a monumental painting by the Catalan artist Joan Miro.

Anny Aviram: It's painted on a very fine linen canvas, which he sizes with animal glue. So the canvas becomes sealed. He's able then to start using a very dilute paint, which he starts applying from the top and you see how the drips start from the top and keep on falling. It's almost like a very controlled accident that he creates.

Anne Umland: Yes, controlled accident, I love putting those two words together. It looks like the most spontaneous picture in the world, yet, there is a great deal of control here. He painted it on the stretcher and vertically, and we know this because we have very distinct marks of the stretcher bar. If you look at the center, those very regular, yet faint, horizontal lines correspond to the wooden bar that is helping to support the canvas. For Miro to make those marks, it's almost like a frottage when you do a rubbing, right?

Anny Aviram: Exactly.

Anne Umland: So, he's pulling his paintbrush a little bit harder over those to reveal something that’s underneath the surface. It's also very in keeping with this idea of the Surrealists of producing chance markings coaxing something up that’s otherwise hidden.