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Pay a Visit to ‘The Farm’

November 19, 2010

Joan Miró's "The Farm"

Hemingway loved Spain, and he loved this painting by Spanish surrealist Joan Miró, his friend and boxing partner.

“The Farm” symbolized rustic Spain for Hemingway, and it’s easy to see why. Miró, Hemingway said, was the only painter able to combine all you felt about Spain when you were there and all you felt when you were away.

When it was offered for sale at a gallery, Hemingway wanted it, but Evan Shipman already had dibs on it. They agreed to shoot dice for it. Hemingway won. Sort of.

He paid $200 for it. Sixty years later, writes his biographer Michael Reynolds, it was worth $2 million. Not a bad investment, although at the time, it cost Hemingway and his wife Hadley their last francs. It became a birthday present for Hadley, but ended up in Hemingway’s hands.

“If paintings had odors,” Reynolds wrote, “this one would smell of olive oil and garlic.”

I love to think of the great American novelist and the great Spanish surrealist painter sparring in the ring in Paris. We can’t see that, but if you happy to be in London next summer, you can see “The Farm” on display. Hemingway’s last wife gave it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, but it’s on exhibit at the Tate Modern in London from April 15 to September 11, part of a Miró exhibit, “The Ladder of Escape.”