Miro, Joan


Photo of, and signed by, the great Catalan artist, taken by “the American Oskar Schindler”, Varian Fry



Type: Photograph
Description: (1893-1983) Catalan Spanish Surrealist painter, sculptor, and ceramicist. A museum dedicated to his work was established in his native city of Barcelona in 1975, and another was established in his adoptive city of Palma de Mallorca in 1981. Earning international acclaim, his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride.

He began drawing classes at 7 and in 1907 enrolled at the fine art academy at La Llotja. He studied at the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc and he had his first solo show in 1918 where his work was ridiculed and defaced. His early art was inspired by van Gogh and Cézanne. In 1920 he moved to Paris, but spent his summers in Catalonia. His painting, “The Farm”, was purchased by Ernest Hemingway, who compared the artistic accomplishment to James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and described it by saying, “It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there. No one else has been able to paint these two very opposing things.” “ Catalan Landscape (The Hunter)” and “The Tilled Field”, 2 of Miró’s first works classified as Surrealist, employ the symbolic language that was to dominate the art of the next decade.

In 1924, Miró joined the Surrealist group. Much of his work lost the cluttered chaotic lack of focus that had defined his work thus far, and he experimented with collage and the process of painting within his work so as to reject the framing that traditional painting provided. His work rarely dipped into non-objectivity, maintaining a symbolic, schematic language. This was perhaps most prominent in the 1924-25 repeated “Head of a Catalan Peasant” series. In 1926, he collaborated with Max Ernst on designs for ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev. With Miró’s help, Ernst pioneered the technique of grattage, in which he troweled pigment onto his canvases. In 1931, Pierre Matisse opened an art gallery in New York City that became an influential part of the modern art movement in America. From the outset Matisse represented Joan Miró and introduced his work to Americans by frequently exhibiting Miró’s work in New York.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Miró was unable to return home. It wasn’t until Spain’s Republican government commissioned him to paint the mural, “The Reaper”, for the Spanish Republican Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exhibition, that his work took on a politically charged meaning. On 20 May 1940, he fled to Spain (controlled by Franco) for the duration of the Vichy regime’s rule. In Varengeville, Palma, and Mont-roig, 1940-41, Miró created the 23 gouache series “Constellations. Revolving” around celestial symbolism. In 1948–49 he lived in Barcelona and frequently visited Paris to work on printing techniques at the Mourlot Studios and the Atelier Lacourière. He developed a close relationship with Fernand Mourlot and that resulted in the production of over 1,000 different lithographic editions. In 1959, André Breton asked Miró to represent Spain in “The Homage to Surrealism” exhibition alongside Enrique Tábara, Salvador Dalí, and Eugenio Granell. Miró created a series of sculptures and ceramics for the garden of the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, which was completed in 1964.

In 1974, Miró created a tapestry for the World Trade Center in New York City with Catalan artist Josep Royo; it was one of the most expensive works of art lost during the September 11 attacks. In 1977, Miró and Royo finished a tapestry exhibited in the National Gallery in Washington. In 1981, Miró’s “The Sun, the Moon and One Star” (later renamed “Miró’s Chicago”) was unveiled, situated outdoors in the downtown Loop area of Chicago, across the street from the Chicago Picasso. He created over 250 illustrated books, “Livres d’ Artiste.” In the final decades of his life Miró produced hundreds of ceramics, including the “Wall of the Moon” and “Wall of the Sun” at the UNESCO building in Paris. In 1954 he was given the Venice Biennale print making prize, in 1958 the Guggenheim International Award, and in 1980 he received the Gold Medal of Fine Arts from King Juan Carlos of Spain.

SP, 7 ¼ x 9 ½ b&w glossy portrait of Miro (on right) and another unidentified man, signed “Miro” in red ink. On back is a backstamp “photo Varian Fry” identification in French, and a dedication in an unknown hand in French translated as: “To my friend Crucio/photo taken by your friend Varian Fry/at [Palma] Mallorca/”Son Abrines”/November 1964.”

VARIAN FRY (1907-1967) American journalist, ran a rescue network in Vichy France that helped some 2-4,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. While working as a foreign correspondent, Fry visited Berlin in 1935 and witnessed Nazi abuses against Jews. On his return, he wrote about the savage treatment of Jews by Hitler’s regime in the New York Times and wrote books about foreign affairs. He helped raise money to support European anti-Nazi movements. After the occupation of France in August 1940, he went to Marseille as an agent of the Emergency Rescue Committee to help people flee the Nazis, and circumvent the processes by French authorities who would not issue exit visas. From 1940 in Marseille, despite the watchful eye of the Vichy regime, he and a small group of volunteers hid people at the Villa Air-Bel until they could be smuggled out. More than 2,200 people were taken to Spain and then to neutral Portugal from which they made their way to the US. He helped others escape on ships leaving Marseille for Martinique, from where they too could go to America. Especially instrumental in getting Fry the visas he needed for the artists, intellectuals and political dissidents on his list was Hiram Bingham IV, US Vice Consul in Marseille, who fought State Department anti-Semitism and was personally responsible for issuing thousands of visas, legal and illegal. Fry was forced to leave France in Sept. 1941 after Vichy and the US State Department disapproved of his covert activities. In 1942, the Emergency Rescue Committee merged into the International Relief and Rescue Committee, later becoming the International Rescue Committee (IRC) still operating today. Refugees aided by Fry included Hannah Arendt, Jean Arp, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Arthur Koestler, Wanda Landowska, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Lipchitz, Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel & and Franz Werfel, Hans Namuth, and Max Ophüls. American private rescuers recruited him in 1944 to provide behind-the-scenes guidance to the FDR Administration’s War Refugee Board. After the war, Fry was a journalist, magazine editor and business writer, taught college and was in film production.

In 1966, Fry began assembling a portfolio by 12 established artists, including Miro, whose work would be based on the theme of flight, to reflect the plight of the refugees. All plates were destroyed by the artists after the printing.

In 1967, the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor. In 1991, The US Holocaust Memorial Council awarded him the Eisenhower Liberation Medal; in 1994, he became the 1st US citizen listed in the Righteous Among the Nations at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. In 2002, the square in front of the US Consulate in Marseilles was renamed Place Varian Fry and in 2005, a street in the Berlin borough of Mitte at Potsdamer Platz was named Varian-Fry-Strasse in recognition of his work. On Oct. 15 2007, the US House of Representatives honored Fry on the centennial of his birth.

Condition: Very good, slightly light finish

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