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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

Grande Maternite

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Grande MaterniteArtist - Joan Miró
Born - 1893
Died - 1983
Origin - Spain
Year Built - 1967

About the Artist:  Born in Barcelona, Spain, Joan Miró is recognized as one of the foremost Surrealists of the twentieth century. Although he studied business early in life, he decided to paint full-time around 1911. Miró had his first solo exhibition at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona in 1918. Beginning in 1920, he spent winters in Paris, where he not only met fellow countryman Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) but also the Surrealist writer Andre Breton (1896-1966). Miró found the ideas in Breton's Manifeste du Surrealisme intriguing and by 1925 he had joined the Surrealists. Miró experimented with automatic drawing, a process by which the artist allowed his unconscious to dictate the movements of his hand, and eventually arrived at the biomorphic forms for which he is popularly known.

By the late 1920s, Miró decided to expand beyond painting, and in 1929 he created his first "sculpture-objects." He flirted with sculpture for much of his career thereafter, creating sketches and maquettes. In 1960, he decided to produce bronzes of his earlier models. Grande Maternite, a 1967 bronze, was produced from a 1956 clay model, Femme (location unknown), that Miró made in collaboration with the ceramicist Josep Llorens Artigas (1892-1980). Taking maternity as its subject, the work is a tribute to fecundity in the womb-like opening in the center of the sculpture and breast forms across the upper portion of the work.

Miró's interest in ceramics, as well as his collaboration with Artigas, extended beyond the sculptural maquettes. He began creating murals in 1953 in which he painted or glazed his idiosyncratic forms across ceramic tiles. The ceramic murals inevitably led to experiments in mosaic. In 1972, Wichita State University commissioned Miró to complete a mosaic for the facade of the future McKnight Art Center. Miró's initial painting, Personnages Oiseaux, served as a maquette for the final product, which was created by Ateliers Loire of Chartres, France. Finished in 1977, the mosaic measures 28 x 52 feet and is constructed of approximately one million pieces of marble and Venetian glass. The title gives some indication of Miró's subject; the reference to birds (oiseaux) and the Surrealist term "personnages" suggests a hybrid, part avian and part human. The fantastical creatures are inspired by the unconscious mind through dreams. As Miró said of his work in 1939: "The forms expressed by an individual attached to society should disclose the activity of the mind wishing to escape from present reality, which today is particularly ignoble, and seek out new realities, offering other men a possibility of elevation."