Joan Miro The ladder of escape Tate Modern exhibition banner

Room 5

Miró was at Mont-roig in July 1936 when the Generals led their mutiny against the Spanish Republic. As events unfolded around him – with the Nationalist army securing the south but Anarchist and Communist militias taking command in Barcelona – Miró produced a series of furious abstract paintings on Masonite. He went into exile in France in late 1936 but the Civil War dominated all aspects of his work. Still Life with Old Shoe is the key oil painting of this moment, capturing the sense of disjuncture even in mundane objects. It is both everyday and wildly disconcerting.

The preparations for the Exposition Internationale in Paris provided Miró with the opportunity to place his work at the service of the Republic. He made the small but powerful print Aidez l’Espagne (Help Spain) to be sold in the Republican Pavilion, where his five and a half metre high mural of The Reaper and Picasso’s Guernica were also on display. The large image at the entrance to this exhibition shows Miró working on the mural. Unfortunately The Reaper was lost when the Pavilion was dismantled. However, Miró’s passionate and anxious imagery is found in works throughout this period.