Internationally celebrated Catalan artist Joan Miró is known for his surrealist works, long career spanning over seven decades and breathtaking studio designed by architect Josep Lluís Sert. Taller Sert is a must for anyone visiting Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands.
IT’S 1956 and Catalan artist Joan Miró (1893–1983) has finally managed to settle into the studio of his dreams in Palma de Mallorca. He is in his sixties and enjoying worldwide fame but hasn’t come to Palma to relax – quite the opposite. In his maturity, Miró keeps creating tirelessly and experimenting with different media and disciplines.
Miró always had a special relationship with the island of Mallorca. Since his early childhood, he traveled there to stay with his grandmother. In 1929, he married islander Pilar Juncosa and finally made the city of Palma his permanent home in 1956 until his death in 1983. Luckily for us, many of his works can still be seen in his studio, thanks to the artist’s wish to let everything he left behind stay as it was when he was there.
A gardener of surrealist art
Miró’s rise to the top of the art world began in the 1920s when he began creating “dream paintings” by letting his subconscious take over when drawing. He joined the French Surrealist group and surrounded himself with international multidisciplinary artists. Poet Andre Breton even referred to him as “the most Surrealist of us all”.
Miró once described his artistry with a phrase: “I work like a gardener.” This statement reflects the artist’s philosophy and uncompromising work ethic. In order to create so much and in such a specific way, Miró knew he needed a space to do so.
In order to create so much and in such a specific way, Miró knew he needed a space to do so.
“The more I work, the more I want to work”, Miró said as early as 1938. By then he already had the vision of having a big studio with lots of space for not only his work and materials but also for his heterogeneous collection of objects and sources of inspiration. However, he had to wait until 1954 to start materializing his plan. That year he moved from Barcelona to Palma and hired his friend, architect Josep Lluís Sert to design his dream studio.
Miró and Sert had met in 1932 and had instantly connected through their mutual goal of integrating art and architecture and their willingness to work as a team. In 1937, Sert designed the Spanish Republic’s pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition, for which Miró painted a mural called The Reaper, one of his most explicitly political pieces. Two years later, Sert went into exile to the US, so he and Miró started their studio project by mail while Miró’s brother-in-law Enric Juncosa was in charge of directing the project in Palma.
Josep Lluís Sert: “Architecture itself can become a sculpture”
Having a sculptural approach to architecture, Sert wanted the studio to be a building that adapted to the idiosyncrasies of the land where it was set. Miró meticulously advised him on all the details. The city’s weather had to be taken into account, as well as the environmental conditions he needed inside the studio, such as the light coming from the north.
In terms of structure, Miró asked for a clear separation between the working area and the storage area, so canvases that were settling could be separated from the ones that were still being worked on. Another important aspect to consider was the size of many of Miró’s pieces and the fact that he used to work on several creations at the same time. Therefore, it was paramount that the studio had enough space to house them all.
Sert designed a sculptural building very much in synch with Miró’s own work.
Even if the studio is a minimalist space, Sert didn’t limit himself to the rigidity of orthodox functionalism but instead designed a sculptural building very much in synch with Miró’s own work. Sert’s creation is full of contrasts that reinforce this effect, starting with the mix of tradition and innovation. The concrete structure contrasts with the Mediterranean materials used, such as stone and clay. The L-shaped structure is covered by vaults that introduce movement. The blue, red and yellow used in the carpentry set off against the white color of the concrete.
Miró extended these contrasts by populating the studio with different natural and artificial elements that can still be seen in the studio today. Among the canvases, oils, watercolors, and brushes, you can see postcards, stones, butterflies, ceramic objects and masks. You might even recognize some of these as a source of inspiration for several of Miró’s works.
Visiting the Miró sites at Mallorca
In order to bring his artistic process closer to the public, Miró established a foundation to which he donated his studio, including the numerous artworks, objects and documents inside. In the museum, you can see many of his paintings, drawings, sculptures and graphic work, while enjoying the wonderful architecture of Josep Lluís Sert.
If you decide to visit Taller Sert, make the most of your trip and be sure not to miss the rest of Fundació Miró Mallorca. At the foundation, you can also visit the gorgeus Moneo Building, which houses works by Joan Miró and other contemporary artists; the sculpture garden, in which you can relax while enjoying Miró’s creations; and Son Boter, an 18th-century rural Majorcan house that Miró used for his largest works, and which features original charcoal graffiti by the artist.
Who: Joan Miró
- A Catalan painter, sculptor and ceramicist, one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. Considered one of the leading figures of Surrealism and a precursor to American Abstract Expressionism.
- Born in Barcelona in 1893 to a family of craftsmen: his father was a watchmaker and goldsmith, and his grandfather was a cabinetmaker. Nevertheless, his family encouraged him to start a career in commerce. After a few years working as a clerk, he found his true calling and began studying art in 1912.
- Joined the French Surrealist group in 1924 and started collaborating with many international artists, e.g. worked with painter Max Ernst on the sets for a Russian production of the ballet Romeo and Juliet.
- Was also inspired by Catalan folk art and influenced by the Spanish Civil War.
- His ceramic wall for the Unesco headquarters in Paris won the Guggenheim International Award in 1958.
- There are a few museums dedicated exclusively to his work, including Fundació Miró in Barcelona, Mas Miró in Mont-roig del Camp in Tarragona and Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Mallorca. Museums like the French National Museum of Modern Art and MoMA have conducted major retrospectives of Miró’s work.
- Died in 1983 in Mallorca.
Text: Irene de Mas Castanyer Images: Irene de Mas Castanyer and Miquel Julià