A Painting by Joan Miró
The American writer, Jon Dos Passos, used to enjoy calling in at the Hemingway apartment above the sawmill in Paris in the early 1920s, chatting, and often helping to give their youngster ‘Bumby’ (John Hemingway) his evening bath, and read him bedtime stories. He much preferred to be with the Hemingways, in their small cold apartment that smelled of wood chippings and other peoples cooking, than with the Murphys in their large, rather sumptuous apartment in the Quai des Grand-Augustins.
He loved art, and enjoyed talking to Ernest about art, and about how much Ernest loved ‘The Farm’ by Joan Miró, and that he, Hemingway, intended to buy it as a birthday present for his wife, Hadley.
“ You do know that Evan Shipman has set his heart on owning that painting?”
“ Miró has agreed to sell it to him.”
“ But it’s mine.”
“ You better talk to Evan about it.”
And Hemingway did talk to the poet and horse racing correspondent who did confirm that he wanted to buy the painting but would shoot dice for it if Ernest wanted it that badly. Hemingway won the shoot, but had no idea how he was going to pay the 5,000 francs for it. In the end he managed to borrow the money from friends (Hemingway paid them all back in installments), and bought the painting.
Miró was delighted that his painting had found a good home.
Hemingway explained to Shipman and Dos Passos that:
“ Miró was the only painter who had ever been able to combine in one picture all that you felt about Spain when you were there and all that you felt when you were away and could not go there.”
Hemingway took the painting back to the sawmill apartment in a taxi, asking the driver to go very slow because it was very precious.
What Hadley thought of her expensive birthday present is not known. When Hemingway and she divorced Ernest hung on to the painting.
During the Spanish Civil War Dos Passos, Evan Shipman and Hemingway were all there as journalists.
Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893 and his work is now considered to be part of the beating heart of Catalonia. There is a museum dedicated to his work in the city of his birth. He died in 1983 in Palma de Mallorca.
Mary Hemingway gifted the painting to the National Gallery in Washington DC in 1987.