The canvas Paysage (Paysage au coq), by Joan Miró, belonging to the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen (Basel), visits Museo Reina Sofía

Joan Miró. Paysage (Paysage au coq) [Landscape (Landscape with Rooster)], 1927. Oil on canvas 131 x 196,5 cm Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. Beyeler collection Photo : Robert Bayer, Basel
Joan Miró. Paysage (Paysage au coq) [Landscape (Landscape with Rooster)], 1927. Oil on canvas 131 x 196,5 cm Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. Beyeler collection Photo : Robert Bayer, Basel

The fruitful collaboration policy developed by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen (Basel), has given rise to major temporary exhibitions organised by both institutions, among other achievements. On this occasion, MNCARS is proud and delighted to present to its visitors Joan Miró’s magnificent painting Paysage (Paysage au coq) [Landscape (Landscape with Rooster)], (1927; oil on canvas; 131 x 196.5 cm), generously loaned for a number of months by this prestigious Swiss foundation.

In 1911, Miró, eighteen years old at the time, spent a period of convalescence in the country house his parents owned in Mont-roig, a town near Tarragona and the place he would subsequently return to on a number of occasions. While there, the direct contact with nature would determine a large part of his early creations and also served as a starting point for his mature style. Miró himself recognised the strong ties to the Catalan countryside and its people almost twenty years later when, settled in the French capital, he admitted in an interview: “I’m much happier with the farmers of Mont-roig than [...] I am among the duchesses and large palaces in Paris.” (F. Trabal: “Una conversa amb Joan Miró [A Conversation with Joan Miró]”. La Publicitat , 14 July 1928). The result of his proximity to the earth and Catalan landscapes would result in a series of works, in which La masía (The Farm, 1921-22, National Gallery of Art, Washington) stands out; an emblematic painting considered a key work in the so-called detallista (meticulous, precise) period of its creator.

During the 1924–25 Biennale, the attention to detail with which Miró appeared to dissect each element in the landscape and farming community of his country transmuted into symbols close to abstraction, emblems, in turn, of Catalan nationalism. In 1926, in what was a new shift, the painter impressed another turn on to his Mont-roig-inspired representations; thus giving rise to his so-called “animated landscapes”, in which the Surrealist technique of automatism took on a prominent role. In these pieces, the most popular of which is Perro ladrándole a la luna (Dog Barking at the Moon, 1926, Philadelphia Museum of Art), which employed another Surrealist technique, reflective disorientation, Miró introduced animals in reference to rural life in Catalonia, together with seemingly strange objects. Thus, the hare at the centre of the painting with a homonymous title (1926, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) appears alongside a spiral, while the dog in Perro ladrándole a la luna is positioned next to a ladder, which also occurs in Paysage (Paysage au coq). In these compositions, the forms – now highly simplified – are outlined against extensive and vivid fields of colours, identified with the sky/earth counterpoint.

Paysage (Paysage au coq) manifests the constants of this fascinating group of “animated landscapes”, which were produced within a limited period between 1926 and 1927, undoubtedly adding to their interest. The ladder – a ladder of escape – that, due to the effects of perspective, tapers away as it moves up and appears to mysteriously penetrate the sky, thus combining land and mysticism, whilst also acting as a potent axis in the composition. The rooster at the centre is flying or crowing – or maybe both – on the right of the canvas, while underneath it the letter “E” can be made out, possibly alluding to Spain, recalled and yearned for by Miró whilst on French soil. The other objects, a strange wheel, an equally unusual cloud and some stones dotted about on reddish soil, compete among themselves to impart an air of hallucination and mystery to the scene. As those in charge of the Fondation Beyeler, and owners of this magnificent piece, assert, when contemplating it […] “we feel drawn towards the depths of childhood memories, a Surrealist theme that Freud had taken an interest in”.

Moreover, even though the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía possesses an expansive representation of Joan Miró paintings in its Collection (fifty-five in total), the majority correspond to the late period of the artist’s work. Likewise, the Museo does not have many paintings dating from the second half of the 1920s, and of the ones it does possess, none belong to the group of “animated landscapes”. As a result, the exhibition of Paysage (Paysage au coq) , very generously loaned by the Fondation Beyeler, is deemed of great interest within the context of the Museo’s own collections, not only because it is a key work from an artistic and historical point of view, but also because it completes a key stage in Miró’s career not previously represented in MNCARS.

Paloma Esteban Leal,
Chief Curator of Paintings and Drawings 1881-1939