Miro: Sculptor, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield


Everyone knows Miro as the artist of big, colourful canvases – but this survey of his sculpture gives him another dimension

Unless, unlike me, you are a Miró specialist, you would probably not take Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel for the Catalan master's work. There are several reasons why not.

One is that we tend to think of Joan Miró as a painter and this is a sculpture – a bronze, although it appears to be, and was, modelled from bits and bobs the artist had lying around in his studio. The tower of the work's title is a split cane hat-stand, the tantalus waving from the deep-sea-fish-thing on top of it a wooden pitchfork. The fish's body is harder to get. As it happens, it is the mannequin-head of Groucho Marx, the comic's tell-tale features, face-up, shrouded in bronze cloth; the open aperture of its neck forming the creature's gaping mouth.

If you allow that Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel is by Miró after all, then it is clearly an early sculpture, done in the mid-1920s when he was in Paris and working as a fully-paid-up Surrealist. But no. This strange hybrid, an assemblage of found objects reeking of Duchamp and 1927, was made in Mallorca in 1977 when Miró was 84 years old.

So here is the problem. For most of us, Miró is not just a painter but a painter in old age – the one who made those big, colourful, likeable canvases, the artist we know from the tail fins of Iberia jets or the logo of the Spanish Tourist Board. The leap from that Miró to this – the maker of Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel, which is currently on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – is a wide one. And yet Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel is entirely typical of Miró, not least in its being sculpture.

At 19, and in the teeth of his silversmith father's opposition, Miró enrolled at the Escola d'Art in Barcelona. His teacher was Francesc Galí, a proto-Modernist who had already worked his way through Post-Impressionism and Symbolism and would end up as a Cubist. For all that, Galí was a rigorous draftsman.

Young Joan was encouraged to draw from objects which he had handled blindfold; to work from touch rather than from sight. In middle age, he recalled the experience. "Even today, 30 years later," Miró said, "the effect of this touch-drawing returns in my interest in sculpture: the need to mould with my hands – to pick up a ball of wet clay like a child and squeeze it. From this I get a physical sensation that I cannot get from drawing or painting".

Standing on the terrace above the sculpture park's formal garden, these words seem oddly apt. Wafted on the wind is the unmistakeable smell of pigs, calling to mind the other great influence in Miró's early life. When he moved to Paris in 1918, the Catalan took with him paintings begun on his parents' farm at Mont-Roig del Camp. These contained the seeds of what was to be his 70-year vocabulary as an artist – maize tassels that morphed into starfish and then into stars and then became maize tassels again; the bulbous shapes that were eyes or breasts or buttocks, or possibly tomatoes, or all four.

More even than Picasso, Miró invented his own cosmology, a world of things to each of which there was a season, and then another and another. What we see in Souvenir de la Tour Eiffel – in its back-of-the-attic materials, its back-to-the-Twenties style – is not so much recycling as replanting, less Miró the Surrealist than Miró the farmer. This is true not just of the sculptures as a whole but of each of them, however unalike they seem.

Here, on the terrace, is Femme, much more Miró than the Tour Eiffel to eyes used to his late painting. Femme is two metres high, cartoony, child-like, a rectangular head stuck on a conical body, bulbous protuberances and a tear-shaped recess reading as buttocks and a vagina. Then again, these may simply be olives and a leaf from Mont-Roig. The leaf and the olives may even be painterly, since these forms also appear in Miró's two-dimensional works. The incised swirl in Femme's face, a lopsided grin in bronze, has the feel of brushstroke. It finds its inverse in another, smaller Femme in the sculpture park's Undergound Gallery, a skinny, graphic, wiry bronze that would fit nicely into its bigger sister's smile.

Positives and negatives; sculpture that looks like painting that looks like sculpture; late work that seems early, and vice versa; body parts that move about – eyes in groins, dicks as arms – then change species or biological kingdom or dimension, or alter their meanings, are symbolic one moment and gestural the next. All these things are in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park's fascinating Miró show. They allow us to see him not merely as a sculptor but as a creator of universes, a maker of worlds.


To 6 Jan 2013 (01924 832631)

Art choice

Johan Zoffany, often overlooked 18th-century German painter of British royalty, enters the spotlight at London's Royal Academy, and he's cheekier than you'd expect (to 10 Jun). At Tate Britain, you can trace the influence of Picasso on British artists from Wyndham Lewis to Hockney via Francis Bacon – or just bask in the glory of the Picassos (to 15 Jul).



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss