Joan Miro The ladder of escape Tate Modern exhibition banner

Room 4

The fall of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in Spain was followed by the establishment of a Republican government in 1931, bringing with it a new constitution and a range of liberal and religious reforms. Miró’s pastels of distorted figures were made in October 1934, at a time when the inclusion of right-wing ministers in the government sparked widespread protests, and the declaration of a Catalan Republic in Barcelona was bloodily suppressed by the army. Miró called his pastels ‘savage paintings’.

In late 1935 and early 1936 Miró made a sequence of paintings on copper and Masonite. Remarkable for their electric colouring, they show pared-down figures in barren landscapes. The atmosphere of uncertainty seems to mirror the anxieties around the right-wing government’s ‘bienio negro’ (two black years) as well as the precarious beginnings of the Popular Front administration that succeeded it at the February 1936 election. These paintings – some of the most astonishing of Miró’s career – were briefly interrupted by the group of Metamorphosis collage drawings that appear to augment and extend them.