An iconic work that gauges Miró's confrontation of the catastrophe of the Spanish Civil War is Still-Life with Old Shoe.

Pushing painting to the limit: Joan Miró’s 'Still Life with Old Shoe' 1937
Pushing painting to the limit: Joan Miró’s 'Still Life with Old Shoe' (1937) MoMA, New York

In later life he saw Still-Life with Old Shoe as his Guernica and this makes it essential for our understanding of his engagement with the politics of his time. He worked on the painting from 29 January to 24 May 1937 while he was in Paris. He had realised that, unlike his usual shorter trips of a few weeks or months, this would make become an extended one. Just before starting on the still-life he wrote, ‘We are living through a terrible drama, everything happening in Spain is terrifying in a way you would never imagine.’

Feeling uprooted and nostalgic for home, he set about arranging an apple with a fork, a piece of bread, a bottle of gin and an old shoe on a table. With these simple elements he wanted to ‘push painting to the limit’, intending the work to stand up to comparison with the great seventeenth-century master Velázquez. At the same, his own dire personal circumstances of lack of food and cash-strapped existence in exile exacted their toll on him. The resulting painting is an extraordinary canvas of lurid, neon colours against ominous black shapes utterly unprecedented in modern art. An acid trip caused by worry, uncertainty and hunger? ‘No sentimentalism,’ Miró said, ‘Realism that is far from being photographic … Profound and fascinating reality.’

Marko Daniel is co-curator of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, Tate Modern 



I'm still surprised how I like the exhibition. Paintings and sculptures were precisely matched and described and the electric exhibition guide (for me just 3 pounds) with curator talks and comments were helpful and gave me the impression of beeing in old Spain together with Mr Miro:)


Really good exhibition - the audio guide is excellent in relating the works to their historical and political context which is of course key to understanding and appreciating Joan Miro. One practical suggestion - as an 'oldie' I would have liked more seating within the exhibition so that I could have listened to the audio guide in more comfort.


unprecedented? Leger? Stuart Davis?


A fascinating and revealing exhibition of a painter whose lively imagination never betrayed him. His "burnt" paintings near the end of his life are particularly impressive, as are his large canvases. A beautifully curated exhibition!

Philomena Byrne

A wonderful exhibition. The way in which it traced the development of Miro's practice and his various concerns added greatly to my understanding of his work and the wider context in which it was created. The clear, informative wall texts and guide were another welcome element in a most engaging experience. Congratulations to everyone involved.


I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition. The chronology was clear and the texts led me through the development and changes in Miro's style and the influence of the political landscape on his work. I found I wanted to know more about many of the images contained in the paintings so that I could further appreciate their meaning. Congratulations!

matt roberts-ward

the miro exhibition was truly amazing, it gave new depth to Miro and the struggle he faced in his life as spain changed through war and revolution. How through his painting he was able to express to everyone the tumoil the spanish people were facing at the time, truly amazing and real insight into how colours work well together simply fantastic


A beautifully curated exhibition. I love his earlier, more figurative paintings and so was remarkably underwhelmed by the burnt canvasses etc from later in his life. Unfortunately, it was very loud in the gallery when I went so it made it hard to contemplate the larger paintings in peace! Very cleverly laid out and has added hugely to my understanding of Miro's work.

Bruce Kittrick MD

The Miro exhibition was the highlight of my recent trip to London. The intensity of his works is astounding. The context of his work in relationship to the Spanish Civil War was deftly presnted. Bravo

Alison Grange

I had never been a big fan of Miro before but this exhibition really changed my mind. I didn't realise how closely aligned his works were with the political climate at the time. I can also now see what his figures were intended to be and can start to read even the more abstract canvasses. Thanks very much for opening my eyes to an artist who had much of great importance to say and what wonderful colours he created as well.

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