“With the Dutch Interiors, Miró was trying to disappoint his audience”, says New York exhibition’s curator

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting an exhibition that juxtaposes Catalan artist Joan Miró’s work with Dutch Golden Era paintings that he was inspired by.


October 18, 2010 11:34 PM

New York (ACN).- “I had to disappoint my followers”. Renowned artist Joan Miró stated this after painting his ‘Dutch Interiors’ series in 1928, according to Gary Tinterow, president of the 19th Century Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition attempts to show the influence that 17th century Dutch painters Jan Steen and Hendrick Sorgh had on Miró’s work. ‘Miró: The Dutch Interiors’ exhibits three works of the same name by Miró along with their inspiration: ‘The lute player’ (1661) by Sorgh and ‘The dancing lesson’ (1660-1679) by Steen.

“Miró was looking for a change with his Dutch Interiors series” Tinterow said in an interview with CNA.  Miró created the series after a visit to Amsterdam and The Hague in the Netherlands. He was looking forward to seeing works from Rembrandt and Vermeer, but was more captivated by pieces from minor artists such as Sorgh and Steen. Miró bought postcards of the two paintings that later influenced his first outlines for the Dutch Interiors series.

From 1925 to 1927, Joan Miró was working on his “poetry of painting” series. The last year of the series was “very prolific for him”, according to Tinterow. He painted around 120 pieces during that time. In 1928, he only created 5 works. “This demonstrates that he needed a rest”. As Miró himself wrote in letters to friends, “I needed to do something really different”.

“I have always thought of Miró as a gentleman”, but that year there was a lot of violence in his letters”, explained Tinterow. “I need to attack my victims in a clear way”, “I have to eliminate my competitors” and the most striking sentence “I have to disappoint my followers”. These are confessions from Miró, through letters sent to friends.

Chaos and sex

What impressed Miró about Sorgh and Steen’s styles was their capacity of using “disorder and explosion of freedom to explain the other face of life, chaos”. Miró’s 1928 paintings differ from those of the early 1920s, as they have much more detail and are richer, less empty. This is another characteristic inspired by the Dutch painters. Tinterow also wanted to stress that Miró was impressed with the sexual interpretation that came out of the Dutch paintings. “Miró enjoyed genital symbols, for their closeness to Surrealism and will to stress the sexual imagination’s importance in human life”, explained Tinterow.  

Along with the 3 paintings by Miró inspired by the Dutch painters, the Metropolitan’s exhibition also shows drafts and preparatory works by the Catalan artist. It also shows Miró works form early 20s and the first paintings from 1929, just after the Dutch influence.