Currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is “Miró: The Dutch Interiors,” an exhibition featuring three surrealist works and the two seventeenth-century Dutch genre paintings that inspired them. Joan Miró first encountered the domestic scenes of Jan Steen and Hendrick Sorgh when he visited the Rijksmuseum during a 1928 trip to Amsterdam. The impact of these works on the Catalan artist resulted in The Dutch Interiors: a series of three paintings in which Miró re-envisions the Old Master works as abstract compositions, nearly four-hundred years after their original production. The exhibition, which debuted at the Rijksmuseum earlier this year, is the first occasion on which Miró’s reinterpretations of these scenes have been displayed with the works upon which they are based.
Miró returned to Spain with postcards of Jan Steen’s Children Teaching a Cat to Dance and Hendrick Sorgh’s The Lute Player (both 1660), and began work on the Dutch Interiors series shortly thereafter. Though they are stylistically consistent with the abstract mode in which he was working at the time, Miró’s canvases retain many of the formal qualities and motifs employed by Steen and Sorgh. While exaggerating and distorting the basic geometric forms of The Lute Player, the triangular compositional structure created by the instrument, the cat, and the dog is meticulously reconstructed in Dutch Interior I.
In Dutch Interior II, Miró retains the circular engagement of Steen’s children and their pets, while simultaneously reducing and enhancing certain geometric elements and coloristic properties of each figure in the scene. He extracts and manipulates key features with remarkable fidelity to their essential form, selectively repurposing or redeploying them throughout his own composition.
Also on view in the exhibition are a number of Miró’s studies for the series. Shown alongside the finished works and the paintings that inspired them, the drawings provide unparalleled insight into Miró’s formal preoccupations and process of transformation.