Notice how the paint seems to soak into the canvas in some places and rest on the surface in others. Joan Miró poured, brushed, and flung the paint, leaving some of the marks up to chance. On top of that uneven layer of paint, he added lines and shapes. Can you find a kite, a shooting star, and a balloon? What other shapes do you see? Miró named this painting The Birth of the World. If this were your painting, what would you call it?
Kids label from 2019
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 MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)