For me a form is never something abstract; it is always a sign of something. It is always a man, a bird, or something else. For me painting is never form for form’s sake.
—Joan Miró, in 1948

Miró always insisted that he was not an abstract painter, and in much of his work he wasn’t, of course. He said of his early work, the paintings he created while he was still living in Barcelona, that he was then “an extreme realist,” and though his paintings of that period are not exactly “realist” in our sense of the term, we know what he meant by it. They are paintings governed by the conventions of direct observation and precise depiction. Yet so large an element of fantasy and invention enters into their realization that they hardly qualify as realism at all. We are thus reminded that every statement by Miró about his own work—including his categorical assertion that...


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