Joan Miró’s Poetic Prints Layer Color and Texture
While best known for his paintings and drawings, printmaking was integral to the work of Joan Miró—a master, founder, and innovator of Surrealism, and a primary influence on Abstract Expressionism. The Catalan painter’s allusive, abstract, and semi-figurative imagery was closely tied to poetry and dreams. Miró’s lyrical, playful work is also known for its use of bright color against hard black lines.
Christopher Clark Fine Art now features a selection of these prints made throughout his career. Especially interesting is the artist’s suite of carborundum prints, which use a special printing plate that creates textured surfaces. When used with aquatint printing, which creates a painterly image, Miró was able to create complex prints. He made many with this unique technique between 1967 and 1969, though printmaking was an important part of his work throughout his career, and the gallery also offers earlier and later artworks by Miró.
L’Ogre Enjoué (The Playful Ogre, 1969) is an excellent example of his use of the medium. An etching with aquatint and carborundum, it uses the three mediums to build a multi-layered image: aquatint to create the background splashes of color, the etching to create the hard black forms that frame the image, and the carborundum to add flecks of texture over the entire surface. Here, the black anthropomorphic shape resembles a dancer or an odalisque, though the form is open to interpretation. In other works, such as Le Penseur Puissant (The Powerful Thinker, 1969) and Le Chasseur de Pieuvres (The Octopus Hunter, 1969), the imagery is much more concretely naturalistic and representational.
An abstract landscape from the same period, made with a lithographic print uniquely embellished with black gouache, Les Essencies de la Terra (The Essence of Earth, 1968), introduces texture by working with the grain and tooth of the paper, in a way similar to the effects he achieved with carborundum. In L’Exilé Noir (The Black Exile, 1969), Miró underplays the texture by using the stain-like aquatint and flat, sharp lines of an etching to build the ovoid form of the print’s central image. At the bottom, he has included a thick black band of carborundum printing, emphasizing the tooth of the fine Arches paper on which he has printed.
A series of later lithographs, made to illustrate a collection of his own poems, called Le Lezard aux Plumes d’Or, extends the rich interplay of texture and flat color that he experimented with in his carborundum prints. Two untitled works from the series (both 1971) create a field of speckled gray tones, over which floats a grill of thick black lines punctuated with red, blue, green, and yellow. The pivotal preceding period, during which he experimented with printmaking, radically changed Miró’s approach to composition, and remained integral to his work until his death in 1983.