At Tate Modern

Peter Campbell

Painters born into the sunset of Impressionism who were fated to have long lives saw a procession of styles emerge before they died. Some they invented, others they took up to play their own games with. Joan Miró’s naive realism was transformed by Surrealism and his art later drifted in and out of abstraction. The Miró exhibition at Tate Modern (until 11 September) begins with neat, stylised pictures of the Spanish countryside and ends with four very large triptychs – colour-field canvases with minimal marks. Some of these have equally minimal titles – Mural Painting I Yellow-Orange (1962) – while others, like The Hope of a Condemned Man (1974), imply profundity. Titles of the latter sort are important if one is to take account of the principles guiding the curators of the Miró exhibition. They explain that ‘in focusing primarily upon three periods and the echoes around them – broadly the years 1918-25, 1934-41 and 1968-75 – we have sought to draw out the oscillation of Miró’s sometimes uncomfortable confrontation with social and political concerns.’ The extent to which this decision has done more than provide a solution to the problem of choosing work from the voluminous production of a long life by limiting selection to three windows (the catalogue essays are strong on history and biography) is a question to return to.[*]

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[*] Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape edited by Marko Daniel and Matthew Gale (Tate, £24.99).