Miró’s lithographic evolution at the acclaimed Atelier Mourlot

Master lithographer Fernand Mourlot was known for courting the exciting artists of the day, including the abstract surrealist Joan Miró. With his expert knowledge of lithography, together they achieved new possibilities with the printing process – turning it into a true art form.

Joan Miró at Galerie Mourlot, Image courtesy of Galerie Mourlot, New York

The innovative Atelier Mourlot studio was opened by Fernand in 1895 on the popular rue Chabrol in Paris. After years of perfecting the limestone print process for the production of posters, Mourlot sought out artists to push the boundaries of the medium. 

Miró first collaborated with Atelier Mourlot on a volume of surrealist compositions in 1948. Captivated by the variety of techniques and the quality of the outcome, Miró toiled away under the watchful eye of Mourlot, eventually creating over 1000 lithographic poster designs.  

Les lézard aux plumes d’or, 1991

When Miró travelled to Paris in 1936 to show his work to a French audience, he ended up staying there in exile as the Spanish Civil War progressed rapidly.

Propelled by a lack of workspace, Miró became drawn to poetry. Stating in a letter to his art dealer Pierre Matisse, ‘Moving poetry exists in the humblest of things and the radiant spiritual forces that emanate from them’. He soon combined his written words with his paintings and lithographs, works which he called illustrated poems. 

A reprint of the original plate created by Miró, this colour lithographic poster (below) was created for the promotion of ‘Les Lézard aux plumes d’or’ [The golden feathered lizards], a book of 13 lithographs produced by Galerie Mourlot in 1991 which were exhibited at Galerie Berggruen in Paris.

Look closely at the bottom and you will see that the artwork features a line of poetry in Mirós characterful lettering. This particular edition was pulled before lettering, making it an exceptional, collector’s piece.

Atelier Mourlot, Bank Street, New York, 1967, Joan Miró

In 1967, Atelier Mourlot opened a second studio on Bank Street, New York, under the direction of Fernand’s son, Jacques Mourlot. To support Atelier Mourlot’s transatlantic endeavour, Miró created this striking poster (below) which he signed himself in stone.

The Catalan artist had already spent a significant amount of time in New York in the 1940s – gaining recognition for his progressive work and influencing the next generation of Abstract Expressionists such as Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock – so it must have been rewarding to return in the 60s to support his friend Mourlot.  

By branching out to America, Mourlot studios opened up a new world of possibilities – collaborating with an impressive line up of leading contemporary artists including Francis Bacon, Roy Liechtenstein and Calder. 

Personnage et Oiseau, 1969, Joan Miró

Humans and birds were common themes in Miró’s work, with multiple pieces sharing similar names, and crossing into other mediums, including sculpture.

Miró used the practice of automatism to create this abstract piece (below) which is called ‘Personnage et Oiseau’ [Character and Bird]. Surrealist artists used automatism to unlock the creative possibilities of the subconscious brain. Sometimes they used hallucination, hypnosis and intoxication to guide them. 

Taken from Miró’s 1969 painting, this rare lithographic print was made in 1984 by the master printers at Atelier Mourlot. 

L’Atelier Mourlot, 1984

Featuring Miró’s ‘Constellations’, this lithographic poster (below) produced by Atelier Mourlot was created for the exhibition, ‘Les Lithographies de L’Atelier Mourlot’. The exhibition, which celebrated 50 years of lithography by Atelier Mourot, was held at the Seibu Department Stores in Japan in 1984.

Owing to his fascination with constellations, many of Miró’s works, like this one, featured stylised moons and stars.. 

Unlike his earlier constellation-themed artworks from the 1940s – which were painted on dark gouache ground reflective of the sombre mood in the wake of World War II – this lithographic poster, which is signed in stone by the artist himself, is a joyous representation of the stars, featuring his limited but expressive colour palette and linework.

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