His early modernist works include Portrait of Vincent Nubiola (1917), Siurana - the Path, Nord-Sud (1917) and Painting of Toledo. These works show the influence of Cézanne, and fill the canvas with a colorful surface and a more painterly treatment than the hard-edge style of most of his later works. In Nord-Sud, the literary newspaper of that name appears in the still life, a compositional device common in cubist compositions, but also a reference to the literary and avant-garde interests of the painter.
Starting in 1920, Miró developed a very precise style, picking out every element in isolation and detail and arranging them in deliberate composition. These works, including House with Palm tree (1918), Nude with a Mirror (1919), and The Table - Still Life with Rabbit (1920), show the clear influence of Cubism, although in a restrained way, being applied to only a proportion of the subject. For example, The Farmers Wife (1922–23), is realistic, but some are stylized or deformed, such as the treatment of the woman's feet, which are enlarged and flattened.
The culmination of this style was The Farm (1921–22). The rural Catalan scene it depicts is augmented by an avant-garde French newspaper in the center, showing Miró sees this work transformed by the Modernist theories he had been exposed to in Paris. The concentration on each element as equally important was a key step towards generating a pictorial sign for each element. The background is rendered in flat or patterned in simple areas, highlighting the separation of figure and ground, which would become important in his mature style. Miró made many attempts to promote this work, but his surrealist colleagues found it too realistic and apparently conventional, and so he soon turned to a more explicitly surrealist approach.
From the summer of 1923 in Mont-roig, Miró began a key set of paintings where abstracted pictorial signs, rather than the realistic representations used in The Farm, are predominant. In The Tilled Field, Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) and Pastoral (1923–24), these flat shapes and lines (mostly black or strongly coloured) suggest the subjects, sometimes quite cryptically. For Catalan Landscape (The Hunter), Miró represents the hunter with a combination of signs: a triangle for the head, curved lines for the moustache, angular lines for the body. So encoded is this work that at a later time Miró provided a precise explanation of the signs used.
Surrealist Pictorial Language
Through the mid-1920s Miró developed the pictorial sign language which would be central throughout the rest of his career. In Harlequin's Carnival (1924–25), there is a clear continuation of the line begun with The Tilled Field. But in subsequent works, such as The Happiness of Loving My Brunette (1925) and Painting (Fratellini) (1927), there are far fewer foreground figures, and those that remain are simplified.
Soon after Miró also began his Spanish Dancer series of works. These simple collages, were like a conceptual counterpoint to his paintings. In Spanish Dancer (1928) he combines a cork, a feather and a hatpin onto a blank sheet of paper.
Miró created over 250 illustrated books. These were known as "Livres d' Artiste." One such work was published in 1974, at the urging of the widow of the French poet Robert Desnos, titled "Les pénalités de l'enfer ou les nouvelles Hébrides" (The Penalties of Hell or The New Hebrides). It was a set of 25 lithographs, five in black, and the others in colors.
In 2006 the book was displayed in “Joan Miró, Illustrated Books” at the Vero Beach Museum of Art. One critic said it is “an especially powerful set, not only for the rich imagery but also for the story behind the book's creation. The lithographs are long, narrow verticals, and while they feature Miró's familiar shapes, there's an unusual emphasis on texture." The critic continued, “I was instantly attracted to these four prints, to an emotional lushness, that's in contrast with the cool surfaces of so much of Miró's work. Their poignancy is even greater, I think, when you read how they came to be. The artist met and became friends with Desnos, perhaps the most beloved and influential surrealist writer, in 1925, and before long, they made plans to collaborate on a livre d'artiste. Those plans were put on hold because of the Spanish civil war and World War II. Desnos' bold criticism of the latter led to his imprisonment in Auschwitz, and he died at age 45 shortly after his release in 1945. Nearly three decades later, at the suggestion of Desnos' widow, Miró set out to illustrate the poet's manuscript. It was his first work in prose, which was written in Morocco in 1922 but remained unpublished until this posthumous collaboration. “
The Fundació Joan Miró Museum in Montjuïc, Barcelona
Pájaro lunar (Moon Bird), 1966, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid