Miró‘s Drawing-Collage (1933)

Contemporary discussion of Miró's series of Drawing-Collages in 1933, of which this is the best known, focused on the construction of their formal elements with one Catalan art critic commenting that "any attempt to definitively interpret the meaning of the works was irrelevant and impossible."1 Of course, no definitive interpretation is possible but one can make a start.

Miró, no matter how different his images may appear, still had to follow the guiding principle of great masters that 'every painter paints himself.' Here the line-figure with a palette-shaped head stands in the position of an artist in front of a canvas and, although the extended member most clearly resembles a penis, it might also be, with a little imagination, the painter's arm stretched out towards the canvas. Indeed the double image of penis and painter's arm had major resonance among artists who often, in private, talked about "painting with their penises."2

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Miró, Drawing-Collage (1933) Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona

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The two women cut from postcards may then symbolize the process of painting itself: one, an over-dressed turn-of-the-century muse in full color in his mind while the other - at the end of his painting arm - would represent his "painting", a modern, contemporary woman in black-and-white. You might expect the monochrome-color juxtaposition to be the other way around (the color one in material reality in his "painting") but artists like all mystics believe that the outer world is not as real as that of the imaginal world where the woman shines brighter in color.

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Detail of Drawing-Collage

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The large red dot on sandpaper remains mysterious. One recent expert has described it as a target that grabs our attention, "Miró's interpretation of the violent confrontation" between various systems of representation. It probably does refer to perception because its circularity suggests the pupil of an eye. At the same time, though, its redness and potential opening near the giant penis suggests an abstract vagina which is possible too if penises paint. Its presence, moreover, would emphasize the androgyny of Miró's mind.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Drawing-Collage

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Miró's abstractions are more difficult to make sense of than more representational images but they are not, contrary to early opinion, un-translatable. Miró's mind was as logical as any other artist's and we, the viewer, need to make sense of his images. 

Notes:

1.  Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937 (New York: Museum of Modern Art) 2008, p. 137

2. Renoir repeatedly referred to his brush as a phallus ‘licking’ the surface of his canvas while, according to Kleinfelder, Picasso’s artists, even when not making love, almost always hold their brushes near their groin. Maus reports that a poet's pen is sometimes "even more than figuratively" a phallus. Karen Kleinfelder, The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso’s Pursuit of the Model (University of Chicago Press) 1993, p.205; Katharine E. Maus. “A womb of his own: male Renaissance poets in the female body” in Sexuality and Gender in Early Modern Europe, ed. J. G. Turner (Cambridge University Press) 1993, pp. 266-7

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