Miró on the Farm
Grade Level: 7–8
Students will be introduced to farming in an arid climate through art-based inquiry of Miró’s The Farm. Learning that his family had to implement two water collection devices, students will collect and investigate the amount of rainfall in their region to design a sketch proposal for how to best collect rainwater for their local farms.
The Farm, 1921–1922
oil on canvas, 123.8 x 141.3 x 3.3 cm (48 3/4 x 55 5/8 x 1 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mary Hemingway
- Science (ecology)
- Language Arts
- Rain gauge
- Computers with internet access for student research
- Drawing and writing materials
- Graph paper and two colored pens or pencils
- Copies of the “Climates of the World” map
Before showing your students The Farm, ask: Who has been to a farm, or what do you think a farm looks like? Then: Is the painting similar to or different from how you thought a farm would look? In what ways?
When Joan Miró was seventeen, he first visited his parents’ new summerhouse, near the Mediterranean Sea. It was a farm in Montroig, a village about sixty miles from Barcelona, Spain. His love of the countryside in Montroig led to his lifelong custom of spending his summers there.
The clay-colored, parched, and rocky-looking soil, the dryness of the vegetation on the barn, and the yellow haze that seems to rise on the horizon indicate the region’s hot and arid climate. Water was clearly at a premium. Without the benefits of a public water supply, the farm used both a cistern—seen between the barns—to collect precious rainwater for washing and watering—and a well, located behind the cistern, to supply drinking water. Miró said of The Farm:
The painting was absolutely realistic. Everything that’s in the painting was actually there. I didn’t invent anything. I only eliminated the fencing on the front of the chicken coop because it kept you from seeing the animals.
Miró says that the painting is a realistic depiction. However, it seems to fluctuate between a realistic recording of the scene and more dreamlike imagery. The landscape, for instance, pulsates with hot, clear sunshine, but the blazing light casts no shadows. In the midday sky, the sun is represented by a disk that, oddly, is silvery gray—the color of the moon. A cart totters on a single wheel. Moreover, we know the barn at Montroig was well kept, not crumbling, as it seems to be here.
- What natural resources are depicted on the farm? Did you notice water? Why is water necessary? Where does this resource come from? (From below the earth, from rivers and lakes, and from precipitation.) Find the well and the open cistern. How would both of these sources be used? (Well water for drinking, collected water for washing, watering plants, etc.) What are some ways you can conserve water?
- What kinds of activities do you see on the farm?
- On the “Climates Around the World” map, find Montroig, Spain, where Joan Miró spent summers on his parents’ farm. What clues does Miró give about Montroig’s climate in the summer? (Bright light, no clouds, dry soil indicate a warm temperate climate; hot summers with little rain where only cactus can grow.)
Miró’s family had to implement two water collection devices—cistern and well—because they live in an arid climate that receives little rainwater. Students will investigate the amount of rainfall their area receives and create a sketch proposal for how to best collect rainwater for their local farms:
- Over a period of two weeks, students should record the amount of daily rainfall accumulated in a rain gauge.
- They should then compare it to the actual amount reported by the Weather Channel.
- Students will create a line graph to show the daily accumulations over this two-week period using two different colors: one for rain collected at the school and the other to represent the Weather Channel’s data.
- Then, students will research how much rain their area typically receives in a year. They should also check out the forecast for farmers in their area and compare it to predictions from the Farmer’s Almanac as well as historic weather trends using the “Weather History Tool” from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- Armed with this knowledge, students will sketch a design of a proposed rainwater collection device for their area. Depending on the amount of water collected, this could alter greatly. For example, if your area receives a lot of rain, a rainwater runoff collection system would be more appropriate; if your area receives little rain, they may have to obtain water from underground.
- In addition to designing ways to collect the rain, they should also include ways to gather the water from their device to be used for drinking, washing, watering plants, etc.
- Students will present their ideas to the class and walk through the process of collection and gathering, supporting their claims from their research and data collection. The class should provide constructive feedback about ways in which their design could be improved to better reflect their ideas and concepts.
Incorporating class observations, students will revise their design to better communicate their intentions. Then, they will write a proposal to their town or city councilmember in support of their design for local farmers. They should include reasons why such a device is important and why they designed it the way they did with their data collection as key evidence.
National Core Arts Standards
VA:Cn11.1.7 Analyze how response to art is influenced by understanding the time and place in which it was created, the available resources, and cultural uses.
VA:Cr1.2.7 Develop criteria to guide making a work of art or design to meet an identified goal.
VA:Cr2.3.7 Apply visual organizational strategies to design and produce a work of art, design, or media that clearly communicates information or ideas.
VA:Cr3.1.7 Reflect on and explain important information about personal artwork in an artist statement or another format.
VA:Re8.1.7 Interpret art by analyzing art-making approaches, the characteristics of form and structure, relevant contextual information, subject matter, and use of media to identify ideas and mood conveyed.
More Lessons in this Unit
Use the “Weather History Tool” on the Old Farmer’s Almanac for weather trends in your region
Borrow the teaching packet Art&
Access activities, curriculum resources, and information that relate art, science, and the environment from the Environmental Protection Agency
View satellite images of environmental change and descriptions of issues affecting particular locations from the United States Geologic Survey site
Download a family-oriented guide about Joan Míro