In a recent trip to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, it was a painting by Joaquim Mir that most excited my senses. I have included my own pictures below.
Mir was born in 1973 to a wealthy family and after his training joined the Calla del Safrà – a group of Catalonian artists who strived to break away from academic painting tradition. The painting pictured is called El Roc de l’Estany and was done around 1903, before his style evolved to be more abstract later in his career. It measures 102 x 128cm and is oil on canvas; I hope the pictures can give an idea of how brilliant the colours are.
The rock is the brightest element in the picture, making it stand forward out of the painting while the darkness of the cave and its reflection stretch back into the wall. The eye’s journey begins on the rock then climbs up the rock face, scrambles to the left and flows down the line of the water to admire the colourful mirror at the bottom. The reflections scoop up to start the swirling, fluid journey again. He uses pastel colours with lots of blue, which keeps us close to the gentle, beautiful side of nature. His use of pinky orange counteracts the blue with warmth. Overall the colour palette is very inviting; there are many colours but they are all in harmony, the loudest part is the brightness of the rock. If this painting had a taste, it would be sweet, probably from associations of these colours with confectionary.
There is very little line; what there is is small, soft and curved. His brush marks are obvious in the reflections, but more disguised in the rocks. Everything is so softly applied. I think Mir seemed to have been really soaking up the beauty he found in nature here, especially in the colours. So there is a deep love in this work, but it is combined with melancholy, due to the blues, the stillness, quietness and absence of sky and figures.