Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Joan Miró - Dog Barking at the Moon

Made in Montroig, Tarragona, Spain, 1926
Joan Miró, Spanish, 1893 - 1983

Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture
From a seemingly quotidian subject—a dog barking at the moon—Miró crafted a painting that is fanciful, nostalgic, and replete with metaphysical yearning. As is true of many of the works he painted when he was living intermittently in France and in his native Spain, this work registers memories of the Catalonian landscape, which remained the emotional center of his painting and the source of his imagery for much of his life. Created shortly after Miró first included words in his art in what he called "painting-poems," its genesis lies in a sketch by the artist showing the moon rejecting a dog's plaintive yelps, saying in Catalan, "You know, I don't give a damn." The import of these words, crossed out in the drawing and then excluded from the painting, nonetheless lingers in the vacant space between the few pictorial elements that compose this stark yet whimsical image of frustrated longing.

Against the simple background, the artist has painted a dog, ladder, moon, and bird. These brightly painted signs arrayed across the field have the quality of words on a blank page. The ladder receding into the sky lends a sense of deep, vacant space to this scene of nocturnal isolation. Stretching across the meandering horizon line and into the distance, this frequently repeated element of the artist's personal iconography suggests the dream of escape or else a poignant desire for connection between the terrestrial and the cosmic. The remarkable combination of earthiness, mysticism, and humor with a rigorous formal imagination marked Miró's successful merging of international artistic preoccupations with an emphatically regional outlook to arrive at his distinctively personal and deeply poetic sensibility. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 63.

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