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Work of the Week | 8 March 2021

CAG.506 Joan Miró, Figure Walking, n.d., lithograph (4/75), 76 x 56 cm. Purchased, 1982. © the artist's estate.

Figure Walking by Joan Miró is a colourful lithograph with bold graphic elements, which probably dates to the 1960s or 70s.

As the title suggests, this abstract form depicts a figure in motion who appears to wear a ‘barretina’, much like the artist’s stylistically quite different Head of a Catalan Peasant (1925) in the Tate collection. This traditional cap was regarded as symbolic, particularly during the Spanish government’s suppression of Catalan nationalism and language in the twentieth century.

In December 1920, two months after the death of Terence MacSwiney, Raimon Negre i Ballet published Irlanda, el Batlle de Cork i Catalunya. The book considers Ireland’s campaign for freedom as a mirror image of Catalonia’s quest to become an independent sovereign state. In March 2016, MacSwiney was honoured by the Catalan National Assembly.

Born in Barcelona, Joan Miró (1893-1983) is often associated with Dada and Surrealism – although he was never a member of such movements – and experimented with automatic drawing. From the 1920s, he began developing his own pictorial language and became interested in representing Catalan identity, particularly through the peasant figure.

In 1937, the artist painted the 5.5-metre-high mural El Segador (The Reaper) for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition. Alternately titled Catalan Peasant in Revolt, it is said to have been inspired by what is now the Catalan national anthem. However, it was to be overshadowed at the pavilion by Pablo Picasso’s incendiary anti-war statement, Guernica.

Figure Walking by Joan Miró is featured in CITIZEN NOWHERE | CITIZEN SOMEWHERE: The Imagined Nation until 5 April.

Tune into The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:


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