Joan Miró i Ferrà (April 20, 1893 – December 25, 1983) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. Although his work is routinely associated with Surrealism, Miró did not completely abandon subject matter in his work. Despite the Surrealist automatic techniques that he employed extensively, sketches from his studio work indicate that his finished paintings were often the result of a methodical process. Miró’s work rarely ever truly dipped into non-objectivity. His work is rife with symbolic, schematic artistic language. He did share a particular commonality with Surrealists, however; Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society. He famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favor of upsetting the visual elements of classical styles of painting.
Miro left Paris for Varengeville-sur-Mer in Normandy in 1939, and it was here an important new body of work was formed – a series of twenty-three gouaches, which became known as the Constellations. They are amongst the artist’s most intricately constructed works, exploring ideas linked to regenerative processes located within nature. Heavily influenced by the turmoil of World War II, his work seems to reflect upon the fragile, transitory quality of existence. Each Constellation piece depicts a moment in time, a microcosm of life: captured in weightless, suspended animation. In 1945, the Constellations were smuggled out of Europe for a Pierre Matisse exhibit in NYC. Andre Breton was immediately inspired by the series and wrote what would become his final poetic works. In 1959, under the direction of pochoir master Daniel Jacomet, 22 of the original 23 gouache Constellations were made into 350 pochoir suites.
The Constellations directly inspired the emerging American Abstract Expressionist painters who, at the time, were seeking to escape from the constraints of Social Realism and Regionalism. Furthermore, Miro's influence on modern art is undeniable. Artistic masters such as Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Roberto Matta, and Mark Rothko cite him as inspirational. It was perhaps the American painter, Robert Motherwell, who most vividly expressed his views on the importance of Miró and his work: “I like everything about Miró – his clear-eyed face, his modesty, his ironically-edged reticence as a person, his constant hard work, his Mediterranean sensibility, and other qualities that manifest themselves in a continually growing body of work that for me, is the most moving and beautiful now being made in Europe. A sensitive balance between nature and man’s work, almost lost in contemporary art, saturates Miró’s art, so that his work, so original that hardly anyone has any conception of how original, immediately strikes us to the depths”