T homas Bouchard’s film Around and About Joan Miró (1955) is undoubtedly a delightful documentary portrait of the Spanish artist and his milieu. But what makes it exceptional is that it features an eight-minute sequence in which Miró creates a painting that was, until recently, unknown to the world.
Filmed in New York on 12 October 1947, as evidenced by the signature and dedication on the back of the untitled canvas, this footage gives contemporary viewers a rare, intimate look at the artist’s process, one that brings the painter to life as he in turn gives life to a work of art.
Miró and Bouchard probably met in 1947 during the artist’s nine-month stay in the city to work on a mural commissioned for the Cincinnati Hilton Hotel. Bouchard had long been a photographer of dancers and choreographers such as Martha Graham, Hanya Holm and Charles Weidman, a fact that is hardly surprising given the film’s focus on the details and dynamics of form and movement.
With great sensitivity and attention, Bouchard captured the rhythms of the artist as he painted a pair of colourful, fantastic biomorphs with a graceful, free hand. A series of close ups on Miró’s paint-loaded brush are edited as though to choreograph the steady turns and gestures that summoned and materialised his bold vision. At once entrancing and illuminating, Bouchard’s footage reveals the particular vitality of Miró’s practice, allowing audiences to see with greater clarity the life forces that still simmer beneath the surface of his paintings.
Jennifer Krasinski has written about film, video and performance art for Artforum.com, Art in America and others. She is a recipient of a 2013 Creative CapitalWarhol Foundation Art Writers Grant.