In 1937 Miró created a 5.5 metre high anti-war mural called The Reaper for the 1937 Paris World Fair and commissioned by the Republican Government, at the height of the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso’s contribution was Guernica. Asked about his political stance on the work Miró stated: Of course I intended it as a protest… The Catalan peasant is a symbol of the strong, the independent, the resistant. The sickle is not a communist symbol. It is the reaper’s symbol, the tool of his work, and, when his freedom is threatened, his weapon.
Among the support for the artist was the writer Juan Larrea, who wrote in Cahiers d’Art magazine:
Miró, by dint of putting his bruised people right in front of his canvas, has seen emerging within his painting a peasant armed with his scythe, a reaper unleashed by a strange phenomenon on an artistic level with the song Els Segadors, the Catalan hymn of freedom. He stands before us, enclosed within his incorporeal beauty, as fraught with harmonies as a marine jewel, held at the bottom amongst the seaweed, the jellyfish and the starfish.
Marko Daniel is co-curator of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape at Tate Modern until 11 September 2011.