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

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

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 517 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Miró painted this towering canvas in summer or fall of 1925 at his family’s farm in Montroig, a small village nestled between the mountains and coast of his native Catalonia. He was buoyed by the success of his recent exhibition in Paris, where he had been feted by many of the young poets and painters associated with the Surrealist movement. Their signatures emblazoned his exhibition’s invitation, claiming Miró as one of their own. The question after he returned to Spain was what he would do next. The Birth of the World is one of his answers.

With this work, Miró went, to quote a favorite Surrealist dictum, “beyond painting,” with “painting” understood to be his own past work and Western artistic tradition. He jettisoned the rules of perspective that painters had used since the Renaissance to construct illusionistic pictorial space, and instead he covered the ground of his vast canvas with an astonishing variety of abstract painterly incidents: spatters, smears, stains, drips, cascades, bursts, smudges, explosions, spurts, and diaphanous washes vie for attention with a series of minimal motifs that are as much drawn as painted. The result was a new and radically unconstrained form of painting that Miró would later describe as “a sort of genesis,” and that his Surrealist poet friends titled The Birth of the World.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)

Here Miró applied paint to an unevenly primed canvas in an unorthodox manner—pouring, brushing, and flinging—so that the paint soaked into the canvas in some places while resting on the surface in others. On top of this relatively uncontrolled application of paint, he added schematic lines and seemingly familiar shapes--a bird or kite, shooting star, balloon, and figure with white head--planned in preparatory studies. Miró once said that The Birth of the World describes "a sort of genesis," an amorphous beginning out of which life may take form.

Gallery label from 2015.
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
8' 2 3/4" x 6' 6 3/4" (250.8 x 200 cm)
Credit
Acquired through an anonymous fund, the Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Slifka and Armand G. Erpf Funds, and by gift of the artist
Object number
262.1972
Copyright
© 2019 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at digital@moma.org.

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

The artist
René Gaffé (1887-1968), Brussels and Cagnes-sur-Mer. Acquired from the artist c. 1926 - 1968
Jane Gaffé (Jane Labie, Mrs René Gaffé), Cagnes-sur-Mer. Inherited from her husband, November 1968 - 1972
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Mrs. René Gaffé, Cagnes-sur-Mer, October 1972

Provenance research is a work in progress, and is frequently updated with new information. If you have any questions or information to provide about the listed works, please email provenance@moma.org or write to:

Provenance Research Project
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at firenze@scalarchives.com. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.