On 11 June the International Surrealist Exhibition opened at the New Burlington Galleries in London.
The organisers were the French Surrealists André Breton and Paul Eluard, together with the English surrealists Roland Penrose and David Gascoyne.
The Belgian Surrealist E.L.T. Mesens intervened at the last moment to mix up the display, setting big works against small, mixing up the artists and creating an overall atmosphere rather than a series of individual displays. Miró travelled to London for the event, and there saw ten of his own paintings and nearly as many drawing and collages on display - the most substantial contribution besides those of his friends Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy. The yellow Head of a Catalan Peasant 1924 (now again in London for the current exhibition) is easily recognised in the installation photographs of the exhibition.
This was Miró’s first visit to London and he does not seem to have witnessed the most notorious event: Salvador Dalí’s lecture delivered from inside a diving suit (to ‘plunge deeper into the subconscious’). Dalí nearly suffocated. Characteristically, Dalí was less demonstrative and he does not appear in any of the photographs of the events. Like many tourists he sent postcards of the National Gallery and the Tower of London. He also became friendly with Roland Penrose who would bring him to London again in 1964 on the occasion of the major exhibition of Miró’s work in 1964.
Matthew Gale is head of displays at Tate Modern and co-curator of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, at Tate Modern.