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The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)

Joan Miró
(Spanish, 1893–1983)

1924. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 39 1/2" (64.8 x 100.3 cm)

Joan Miró’s The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) may seem abstract, but a closer look reveals a landscape populated with a rich assortment of human and animal figures and natural forms that together comprise an iconography of the artist’s life. The hunter, standing at the left side of the composition, has a stick figure body and a triangular head. A pipe protrudes just to the right of his bushy mustache, and his heart floats near his chest. In one hand he holds a freshly killed rabbit, in the other, a gun still smoking from the kill. This hunter figure is a stand-in for Miró, and it appears in many of his other works.

Miró’s landscape evokes life on his family’s farm in Montroig, Catalonia, Spain. A politically autonomous region near Spain’s border with France, Catalonia maintains its own parliament, language, history, and culture. Catalan nationalism has been a subject of debate for more than a century. Perhaps hinting at this contentious history, Miró depicts the French, Catalan, and Spanish flags in the background. In the foreground, he writes the word “sard,” short for “Sardana,” Catalonia’s national dance. This truncated word also references the fragmented letters and words of the Dadaist and Surrealist poetry by which he was influenced.

In 1923, Miró moved from Montroig to Paris. The move meant a transition from painting directly from nature to working indoors, in a studio. A few years later, he explained the impact this location change had on his work: “I have managed to escape into the absolute nature, and my landscapes have nothing in common anymore with outside reality….”1

Joan Miró, quoted in William S. Rubin, Miró in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1973), p. 21

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A representation of a human or animal form in a work of art.

An artistic and literary movement led by French poet André Breton from 1924 through World War II. Drawing on the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists sought to overthrow what they perceived as the oppressive rationalism of modern society by accessing the sur réalisme (superior reality) of the subconscious. In his 1924 “Surrealist Manifesto,” Breton argued for an uninhibited mode of expression derived from the mind’s involuntary mechanisms, particularly dreams, and called on artists to explore the uncharted depths of the imagination with radical new methods and visual forms. These ranged from abstract “automatic” drawings to hyper-realistic painted scenes inspired by dreams and nightmares to uncanny combinations of materials and objects.

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

Subject matter in visual art, often adhering to particular conventions of artistic representation, and imbued with symbolic meanings.

The shape or structure of an object.

The area of an image—usually a photograph, drawing, or painting—that appears closest to the viewer.

An artistic and literary movement formed in response to the disasters of World War I (1914–18) and to an emerging modern media and machine culture. Dada artists sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic, favoring strategies of chance, spontaneity, and irreverence. Dada artists experimented with a range of mediums, from collage and photomontage to everyday objects and performance, exploding typical concepts of how art should be made and viewed and what materials could be used. An international movement born in neutral Zurich and New York, Dada rapidly spread to Berlin, Cologne, Hannover, Paris, and beyond.

The arrangement of the individual elements within a work of art so as to form a unified whole; also used to refer to a work of art, music, or literature, or its structure or organization.

The area of an artwork that appears farthest away from the viewer; also, the area against which a figure or scene is placed.

A term generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature.