Boundaries of horror: Joan Miró and Georges Bataille, 1930–1939

Thornton-Cronin, Lesley (2016) Boundaries of horror: Joan Miró and Georges Bataille, 1930–1939. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis represents an original contribution to art historical scholarship in its investigation of the overlaps between the art of the Catalan artist Joan Miró and the writings of French philosopher Georges Bataille in the period 1930–1939. I examine three series of intimate, private works undertaken by Miró in 1930, 1935-1936, and 1938-1939 through the lens of contemporary Bataillean texts in order to identify corresponding themes, imagery, and operations. I argue that not only does Bataillean thought represent a direct source of influence on Miró’s work of this time, but also that the artist deliberately turns to this more violent, un-idealised aesthetic in order to visually confront his own professional crisis, the rise of fascism in his homeland, and the Spanish Civil War and start of the Second World War.

My research has uncovered that Miró and Bataille share an interest in the anti-retinal. Miró demonstrates this interest through his ‘assassination of painting’ and attacks on bodily representation, and Bataille in his obsession with blindness—which Miró references in 1930 in his use of imagery from Bataille’s Story of the Eye and through his employment of the informe. Bataille and Miró both use parody in advancing their aesthetic and political missions. Bataille parodies the transpositional nature of Surrealist image-making, while Miró mocks his own earlier artistic output. To this end, both employ ‘parodic landscapes’ that use the image of the volcano as a metaphor for political upheaval and to celebrate ‘real,’ non-transpositional base matter. I argue that the work of both figures exhibit qualities of the carnivalesque, in their interest in parody, ‘sacred’ (liberating) laughter, and excremental imagery. A further, significant, consideration in this thesis is the transgressing of taboos in Bataillean eroticism (and the overlaps between eroticism and war), of which I have identified parallels in Miró’s work.

By considering Miró’s use of Bataillean themes in tandem with the artist’s passionate Catalan nationalism, I argue that the influence of Bataille’s parody, eroticism, and violence provided Miró with the tools to personally respond to the Civil War. This thesis opens a new line of inquiry into Miró in the 1930s, and invites future considerations on Bataille’s influence on Miró’s oeuvre.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of volume 2 of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version of volume 1 is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Surrealism, Joan Miró, Georges Bataille.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DP Spain
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Hopkins, Prof. David
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Lesley Thornton-Cronin
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7193
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2016 08:06
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2019 10:19

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