CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Miró: the Dutch interiors

Exhibition: 5 October 2010 - 7 January 2011

From the museum press release, 4 August 2010

During a two-week trip to the Netherlands in spring 1928, the Barcelona-born modern painter Joan Miró (1893–1983) purchased picture postcard souvenirs from the museums he visited. The color reproductions of two 17th-century Dutch genre paintings particularly caught his attention and served as the inspiration for a series of original paintings he created that summer. The traveling exhibition Miró: the Dutch interiors, which opens at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning October 5, features Miró’s three “Dutch Interiors” and the two old master paintings on which they are based. The New York venue will also show an additional painting by Miró in the Metropolitan’s collection — The Potato — that resulted from the same trip. This juxtaposition of early 20th-century avant-garde art with paintings from the Dutch golden age marks the first time that these canvases by Miró are displayed alongside the Dutch scenes that inspired them.

Exhibition Overview

The exhibition brings together three paintings by Miró: Dutch interior I (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), Dutch interior II (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice) and Dutch interior III (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), that were directly influenced by two 17th-century works in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. The Dutch paintings, The lute player (1661) and Children teaching a cat to dance (1660-79) by Hendrick Sorgh and Jan Steen respectively, both feature a musician, an audience of one or more people, and a cat and a dog. When reinterpreted by Miró, the scenes undergo a complete metamorphosis.

When Steen’s humorous genre scene was transformed into the eccentric and imaginative Dutch interior II, Miró enlarged and focused on the animate figures—both human and animal—while de-emphasizing the inanimate objects. The cat is at the swirling center of Miró’s composition, and the noise and chaos of the dancing lesson are communicated through motion and rhythm.

Although there is a long history of artists who sought inspiration in the work of other artists, this encounter between the Dutch golden age and the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century is both unexpected and rare. Through a selection of preparatory drawings that will also be displayed, viewers will see how Miró moved from representational sources to his own language of nearly pure abstraction.