Deeper into Jeopardy! IV: Surrealism – $2000

Jeopardy! category: SURREALISM (04-02-2014)

$2000 clue: “Dog Barking at the Moon” is by this countryman of Picasso & Dali who ran with the Surrealists in the 1920s (visual clue: click the link to see)

Correct response

The gist: A ladder, a wispy bird, an irregularly-shaped moon, and a colourful dog that somehow reminds me of Snoopy on a brown groundline is all the painting presents. The simple composition perhaps belies the meaning the artist may have had in mind in its creation.The 1926 work by Catalan Spanish artist Joan Miró shows his Surrealist influences, as the scene is clearly not taking place in any physical reality – aside from the strange-looking figures, the ladder isn’t supported by anything and doesn’t appear to lead anywhere, and both the sky and ground are devoid of any of the details we would expect to see in a traditional landscape. It’s been interpreted as the aspirations of the artist to make a name for himself in what some Surrealists saw as the bleak, uninteresting world of art in the 1920s, perhaps to take his place alongside that ephemeral bird-thing, en route to the weird shining moon. According to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a rough sketch of the painting had the moon telling the dog, in text, that it didn’t care about the dog’s howling, belying, perhaps the frustrations Miró was feeling at the time. The words were omitted from the final version to leave more for viewers to fill in themselves, but to me, the bareness of the scene doesn’t leave much room for optimism on the pup’s behalf, at least not while it’s stuck on that brown ground.

The artist in 1935. Better to include this than to confuse readers with another painting of his, I think.

The clue: The writers have given a big hint by referencing a countryman of Picasso and Dali; both were Spanish, and along with Goya, El Greco, and Velazquez, are usually the Spanish artists Jeopardy! asks about. Of course, just knowing that the correct response is Spanish is only a help in pointing you in the right direction, and if you’ve just plain never heard of Miró before, like me, it doesn’t help much. Not quite a know-it-or-don’t, but close.

In Jeopardy!: Miró’s been a part of nine earlier clues; June 3, 2009 had a full regular Jeopardy! category devoted to works he’s done specifically on walls (“Miro, Miro on the Wall,” in which the clues were all either about cities or museums). This was the first clue about “Dog Barking at the Moon,” and in fact only one other clue has mentioned one of his pieces by name, “Women and Bird in the Moonlight.” Keep him in mind if there’s a category about Spanish art, but even then there are likely candidates.

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