In addition to exploring the works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, we visited two museums: The Fundacio Joan Miro (which is in Barcelona) and the Dali Theater-Museum, (which is in Figueres, about an hour train ride away).
Fondacio Joan Miro provides a brief retrospective of the career of artist Joan Miro, tracing his evolution from abstractionist, to figurist into one of the world’s most prominent surrealists, with one of the most recognizable styles in the world. Although the museum focused primarily on the oils and prints that make up the bulk of his work, it also provides prominent examples—including at the entry to the galleries—of some of his work in media including sculpture, tapestry, collage and assemblage.
It looks at the earliest phases of his career and how the initial stages of his career were influenced by Cezanne (especially his use of planes and shapes) and Matisse (as in his use of intense colors. It then traces his (like that of other artist’s) move toward abstraction (in an escape from the reality) and darker colors and more ominous forms (that reflected the reality) of World War II and the development of the types of symbols to which he would return continually throughout his career and that would become so emblematic of his work. These images, as pioneered in his Constellations series, include his representations of women, reptiles and the sun, moon and star.
It examines the evolution of his work through the 1960’s and 70’s. These included his:
- Use of many different forms of paper, including cardboard, newsprint and even sandpaper;
- Effort to “destroy painting” by diversifying into ceramics, bronzes, prints, pastels and other media;
- Evolution of established images, as in the way a trip to Japan prompted him to depict the sun in red;
- Adoption of new themes, including a distinct portrayal of the horizon and the use of black handprints in his work); and even
- Experiments with Abstract Expressionism.
The exhibit concludes with a “Homage to Miro”, that displays works showing the ways in which such other diverse and notable artists (such as Matisse, Motherwell, Rauschenberg and Serra explored some of the themes and images pioneered by Miro.
The Dali Threater-Museum, in the town of Figueres, consists of two distinct sections:
- The Dali Theater-Museum, which contains a broad range of his work spanning his entire career and the different media he employed (as well as a display of some of the art from other artists in his own collection and a changing exhibition of other artist’s work); and
- Dali Jewels, a permanent exhibit of works that represent his creation of jewelry and decorative art items that incorporate gold, jewels and semi-precious stones.
The Museum begins in an outdoor space and large atrium that display some of his large-scale sculptures and images.
The galleries trace the influences on his artistic vision and his experimentation with images and techniques from schools including impressionism, futurism and cubism, as he progressed to his long-term focus on surrealism. Although it contains some of his trademark images, like the Venus de Milo with drawers and the portrait of Lincoln that can only be identified from a distance, it does not include others, such as his lobster telephone or perhaps his most famous image of all, a melted clock that appears to represent the impermanence of time.
It proceeds through a series of sketches with disconcerting and sometimes disturbing images, such as monsters devouring people and men dominating women and prints and oils that show the ways in which the Spanish Civil War, the Franco regime and World War II affected his work—such as his use of dark colors and violent images and an oil painting whose disconnected telephone line reflects his view that communication could have prevented the war.
Although the collection portrays a wide range of media, themes and images that represent all stages of Dali’s career, it also devotes particular space to a number of the artist’s series.
Some of these series include:
- Objects Montes, a 1967 series which contain a series of bronze sculptures that seem like they may represent images from his life, such as crosses, keys, coins, crosses, trees and birds;
- Caduceus series, which include a reinterpretation of the medical doctor’s symbol of a snake wrapped around a winged staff, where Dali replaces the wings with a carved dish;
- Landscapes, with trees, blue skys, images that appear to be either birds or tacks, and a curious red string that connects an object and the top of the image with one at the bottom
This red string is one of a number of images that seem to reappear from time to time across many of his work. Another image that appears much more frequently, across all his genre, and in many different ways, is a fork that appears like a tuning fork
The museum also includes a number of his homages to other artists, including his own representations of images and settings in the work of artists including Matisse, Picasso and especially of Velasquez. A Dali portrait of Picasso is even located near the entrance into the museum.
One of our favorite images in the entire museum is an installation that occupies an entire room. The room, which on first appearance, appears to be disconnected representations of big red lips, landscape pictures, a dyed blonde mop of hair and a very long-legged camel, come into full view only as you climb a staircase and look through a convex mirror mounted beneath the camel’s body—a representation of Mae West that we discover, only as we come down the other side of the stairs, is from a portrait that he had previously painted of the movie star.
The museum, as mentioned above, also includes images from other artists, These include series by Evarist Valles, and Antoni Pitxot’s Aliyah series that contains disturbing images of World War II and the Holocaust.
One gallery is also devoted to works from Picasso’s own collection including some from Greco, Urgell and Duchamp.
Dali Jewels contains only 29 works, but what works! Most are cast in gold and are studded with jewels. Some reproduce known Dai works, such as Mae West’s lips and his iconic melted watch. Others are totally new and different, portraying all types of images as works of art which are intended to demonstrate that the real value of jewelry is in the artistic creation, rather than in the cost of the media. While some are designed to be worn as jewelry, others are more decorative arts, intended to be displayed rather than worn. Most, if not all, are striking, both for their design and their intrinsic value.