Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Understanding Miro (maybe)



I have some difficulty appreciating “modern art,” as a posting on this blog some months ago indicated. A good example of the art I have trouble with is a canvas by Joan (that’s pronounced “Juan”) Miro which hangs in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. Miro’s painting is titled “Woman, Star, Bird” (he did several works with that title) and it is extremely difficult if not impossible to figure out what in the picture is the bird and where the woman is. (The star is pretty obvious.) Normally, I would walk by a picture like this. But I learned something recently on a trip to New York where the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently staging an exhibit titled “Miro’s Dutch Interiors.”

Joan Miro visited the Netherlands in 1928 and there he saw the works of the old Dutch masters whose paintings you could look at and know what you were looking at. Miro bought a few postcard reproductions of some of these paintings, went back to Paris and proceeded to paint his version of them. The paintings are called his Dutch Interiors I, II and III. The Met’s exhibit hangs the Miro paintings next to the original works by the Dutch masters which inspired them. There even are numbered charts to point out where items in the very realistic originals appear in, or are suggested in, the very abstract works by Miro. Hanging side by side, it really gives a viewer an insight into the artist’s head. And this insight enables a viewer to better understand any painting by Miro and perhaps other abstract artists as well. It even may help you understand the Miro hanging in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach (to which admission is free one Saturday each month to county residents).

Reproduced at the top of this posting is Miro's Dutch Interior I as well as a 17th century painting by Hendrik Sorgh, The Lute Player, which was the inspiration for Miro's work. Can you spot the lute in the modern work? How about the dog?

JL

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