Head down to Catalonia with Joan Miró and his famous painting The Hunter (Catalan Landscape). As a painter and sculptor whose work was consumed by Dadaism, he never abandoned his origins – this Catalan returned home several times a year. KAZoART’s Canvassing the Masterpieces explains all of the scattered and difficult-to-decipher details in this 1924 masterpiece. Shall we?

A few words about Miró

Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893. Son of a jeweller and a mother whose father was a cabinet maker, he turned to painting at a young age. After studying at the School of Fine Arts in La Llotja, he went to Paris in 1919 where he met the greatest artists of his the time.

Influenced by both Fauvism and Cubism, it was Surrealism that he was most fond of in the end. He later joined André Breton’s group of Surrealist artists.

Portrait de Joan Miró (1935)
Portrait of Joan Miró (1935) / By Carl Van Vechten via Wikimedia Commons

Before leaving for France, he contracted typhus. To preserve his health, he was quarantined on a family farm. This period was a formative time in the young artist’s life as it was here that he became attached to the lands of Catalan. He often returned to this place both physically but also in his artistic practice. He never ceased to be inspired by his roots.

In 1937, when Picasso denounced the civil war in his masterpiece, Guernica, Miró was forced to leave Spain and return to France. He also chose to depict the atrocities of the Spanish War in his work. After the conflict, he returned to Spain and continued to create both paintings and sculptures.

A few words about The Hunter (Catalan Landscape)

Paysage Catalan (Le chasseur) de Miró
Joan Miró, The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) / oil on canvas, July 1923–1924

Miró’s The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) was painted in 1924. It is one of his most popular and famous works. Brimming with all kinds of characters, symbols, shapes and abstractions, it is a beautiful dichotomy that establishes itself between the rhythmic composition of geometric patterns and the spontaneity of a living line.

The Hunter (Catalan Landscape): 5 details you don’t want to miss

1. A rather curious hunter

Detail of The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) by Miró

The hunter, a key figure in the work, stands in the left of the composition. He is reduced to small attributes and represented by geometric shapes. These are very characteristic of Miró’s painting. He has a stick body and a triangle head.

With a heart that seems to be floating in mid-air, he smokes a pipe and brandishes a smoking gun. We are led to believe that he has just shot a rabbit. Miró’s reductive representation of the human body is perhaps a commentary on his views of humankind itself.

2. The confusing word

Detail of The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) by Miró

Perhaps it’s a mystery Miró has left for us. Many are not content with Miró’s explanation of what “Sard” might mean so they make their own suppositions. For some, it is an abbreviation of “Sardana”, which is a Catalan dance. Art historians see this fragmented word as a reference to Dadaist and Surrealist poetry which regularly uses letters and truncated words.

Miró gave his version of the composition by saying that it is actually the word “sardine” cut out. The word echoes the recently-shot prey that flutters around in the foreground. And all of a sudden, it’s much less poetic!

3. A targeted prey

Detail of The Hunter (Catalan Landscape) by Miró

There are many questions involving the true identity of this animal in the foreground. Given its large ears, one might think of it as a rabbit. But when looking at its slender body and the shape of its tail, it could also be taken for a fish.

The hunter roams nearby while his game is still fresh. He chooses his next target, who is busy playing with a fly…

4. The symbols that make sense

Détail de l’œuvre Paysage Catalan (Le chasseur) de Miró

It can be difficult to make sense of certain elements in Miró’s work. However, some are easily understandable once identified. For example, the French and Catalan flags at the top left pay tribute to his roots (Catalonia) and the country that he made his home (France).

There is also a symbol in the shape of an aircraft which refers to the Toulouse-Rabat flight that he watched pass by once a week. We can see the wheel and the propeller of the plane just under the flags.

On the right we see waves, seagulls and the Spanish flag. We can also see the carob tree which is represented by a straight line with a leaf at the top. In the bottom left of the composition we see a tree with a bold triangle on the top. This is meant to signify a dense and wild vegetation. Then there is the tentacled black figure that some say represents the female sex, while others refer to it as the sun.

And then, just above “Sard”, there is a small scene involving a grill. It waits patiently for the rabbit (or shot prey) with its flames and pepper ready…Clearly the reward for having a successful hunt.

5. A tribute to fields of Catalan

Palette chromatique de l’œuvre Paysage catalan (Le chasseur) de Miró

Miró’s palette sets the tone. He gives us the warmth of the Catalonian sun, the aridity of the land, the hues of its vegetation, and the depths of its skies both by day and by night. With a canvas bathed in yellow and ochre, he immerses us in the rural life of the Catalan countryside.

The colours help define the geometric shapes that punctuate the canvas. The farm’s decor can be seen in other paintings such as The Farm (1922) and The Tilled Field (1923). Miró always sought to honour his lands by capturing their spirit and depicting them with passion and authenticity.