Joan Miro The ladder of escape Tate Modern exhibition banner

Room 12

Miró returned to the horizontal format first used in 1961–2 in these two white triptychs of 1968 and 1973. In contrast to the earlier emphasis on immersion in colour, these open questions of austere contemplation. Rather than the bright modernist interior of his Sert-designed studio, both of these triptychs were painted in the traditional eighteenth-century house, called Son Boter, that Miró bought as an additional workspace in 1959. Its spaces were tightly concentrated and this sense of isolation is reflected in the title that he chose for the most restrained of these works: Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse 1968.

Miró called the fourth of the horizontal triptychs The Hope of a Condemned Man. As with all his work, the apparently spontaneous emerged from a long period of preparation, with sketches dating back to the late 1960s. Nevertheless, Miró specifically linked this painting – with its highly charged title – to the government’s execution of the Catalan anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in 1974.

Miró and Sert planned chapel-like spaces for these two triptychs in the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, and the painter was also happy to see them displayed on dark walls when they were shown in his first post-Franco retrospective in Madrid (a design mirrored here).