For 65 summers, Joan Miró was a regular in the village of Mont-roig, which inspired the famous painting La Masía and the rest of his work.
There, at the farmhouse that his family bought, he also received visits from his friends Ernest Hemingway, Alexander Calder or Josep Lluís Sert. Mas Miró attests the course of the painter’s entire life and work. It is here where he returned year after year, from 1911 to 1976, except for a brief pause during the Spanish Civil War. Walking through the farmhouse means embarking on a true journey of Joan Miró’s personal and creative trajectory.
“All my work is conceived in Mont-roig”
He left it written. And it was as is. Miró was in love with cooking and the countryside. He admired the patience of the farmers and their tenacity. He showed it in his first exhibition at the Dalmau Galleries, in 1918, where he presented almost 200 works. Didn’t sell one. Nor did he have any luck in Paris where he exhibited at the Licorne.
Three years later, he placed the family farmhouse in Mont-roig at the very core of all his artistic creation and created his first masterpiece, La masía (1921-22). The painting is now in the collection of the National Gallery, after having belonged to Ernest Hemingway who, at the time, was one of the few who believed in his friend’s work.
Converted into a foundation after a long reform and rehabilitation, Mas Miró opened to the public in 2018. The house and the surrounding landscape that gives meaning to his work have been valued. In fact, Mas Miró is today a house-museum where everything is preserved as he left it in September 1976.
Joan Miro’s studio
The painter’s studio is made up of a ground floor and a loft, finished off with Catalan-style vaults and generously lit by large windows. It is a building from the 20th century, with bare white walls, of which two graffiti made by Miró and a fireplace stand out.
Inside, several of the painter’s instruments – easels, spatulas, palettes and original aprons splattered with paint, together with a simple dining table, and a small four-legged bed are still preserved. Objects, books and a few pieces of the artist’s clothing are stored in a bedroom.
Mas Miró is actually made up of a series of buildings ranging from the 18th to the 20th century. The main building, a white-rendered mansion, with a ground floor and two floors topped by a cornice, and a square tower centered on the façade, opens towards an impressive garden.
Mas Miró is not only the painter’s farmhouse and studio; it is also its immediate surroundings, where the original cultivation has been restored with an organic garden with almond trees and seasonal vegetables.
Besides completing the Miró triangle formed by the foundations in Barcelona, the city he was born in, and Palma de Mallorca, where he lived his last years, Mas Miró is also part of El Paisatge dels Genis, tourist route along the Costa Dorada and Terres de l’Ebre to discover the work of Gaudí, Miró, Casals and Picasso.
Mont-Roig del Camp is in the region of Baix Camp and part of the Costa Dorada. It has two distinct nuclei, the core of Mont-roig, with interesting architectural and historical references, and the coast, or the Miami Platja.
I gathered here a few things I’ve read on Miró’s relationship with Mont-roig del Camp, with a special focus on landscape and food.
Mont-roig, a turning point
Miró was going to be an accountant. His father, Miquel, made him train in commerce to be “someone in life”. Even so, in 1907 he managed to be enrolled at night in the art and design school of the Llotja de Barcelona, while by day he was the respectable accountant of Dalmau i Oliveres. In 1911, typhoid fever forced him to retire for two years in the farmhouse that his father had bought from the Marquises of Mont-roig in the Baix Camp of Tarragona. There he decided that art was his thing and not calculations.
The olive trees, the beach, and the carobs
The landscape, the olive trees and the countryside of Mont-roig del Camp appear in many of Miró’s first paintings. Also, a lively concern for expressive color, for geometric synthesis and the natural detail of plants, as seen in the Vineyards and olive trees by Mont-roig (1919) painting, today displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
ʺIn the soil of Mont-roig there are the roots of those two marvelous trees of that land: carob and olive. For me, the roots of the carob tree are like my feet, which sink into the ground, and that contact gives me enormous strength. I also admire that sign of vitality in carob trees, never shedding their leavesʺ (as stated by Miró in the documentary D’un roig encès: Miró i Mont-roig, 1979.) A lot has been written about Miró and the carob, as he always carried a carob in his pocket. As he said: “I always travel with a carob pod inside an envelope. It’s a ritual. For me, and for Catalonia. The carob tree never loses its leaves. Its greenness is incredibly powerful. I am loyal to the carob tree, that’s for sure!”
Many of Miró’s paintings from that early period depict the landscape of Mont-roig. Losing himself among olive trees, sitting in the garden to contemplate the sky inspired him. He went to the Bay of Mont-roig on daily basis, to swim or to collect stones, logs and roots that he later transformed into sculptures. Or he climbed up to the red rocks of the hermitage, Ermita de la Roca, documented in the 13th century, where he painted that cubic construction surrounded by centuries-old olive trees. If you go up there, in the traditional cuisine restaurant La Cuina de l’Ermita, they cook a particular tribute to the painter – pork cheeks among carob and olive trees, inspired by Joan Miró’s painting Vineyards and olive trees.
Miró planted his feet firmly on the ground in Mont-roig. ʺJoan Miró once told us that to fully understand a painter, you had to visit him in his place of origin, said critic Sebastià Gasch, who visited him at the farmhouse in October 1930. Well, indeed, you must go to Mont-roig – to that clear country, scrubbed clean, where the little grasses and leaves, the trees and the mountains are sharply outlined against an ever-blue sky, without atmosphere – to love the precise, penetrating, strong and intense painting of Joan Miró without reserve.ʺ
ʺFood is a very serious subject, especially from a poetic point of view.ʺ
In 1966, the Vogue columnist Ninette Lyon published a peculiar report on the Catalan painter Joan Miró, in which talked about art, of course, but also about gastronomy and agriculture. “What are your favorite dishes?”, he asked. “I like peasant cuisine. Food is a very serious thing, especially from a poetic point of view. I am anti Cordon Bleu, it seems too similar to the Sorbonne. I greatly dislike Béarnaise sauce, which, in the long run, explains a lot about my painting”, the Surrealist master replied. Miró was referring to rustic bread, olives, empedrat de mongetes, sanfaina, xatonada (escarole, tuna and anchovy salad with romesco sauce), or ensaimada, which marked the beginning of his friendship with Picasso – they say in was an ensaimada that forged their friendship on rue La Boétie, in Paris.