Details & Cataloguing

Surrealist Art Evening Sale


Joan Miró
1893 - 1983
signed Miró (lower right); signed Miró, dated 1952 and titled on the reverse
oil on fibro-cement
27 by 26.7cm., 10 5/8 by 10 1/2 in. (irregular)
Painted in 1952.
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G. David Thompson, Pittsburgh

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York

Sale: Christie's, New York, 12th May 1988, lot 347

Yayoi Gallery, Tokyo (purchased at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Miró, Recent Paintings, 1953, no. 47, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné, Paintings, 1942-55, Paris, 2001, vol. III, no. 911, illustrated p. 190

Catalogue Note

‘After Altamira, all is decadence’, Picasso was said to have exclaimed on visiting the famed painted caves in Northern Spain. It is a sentiment echoed by Miró in this work, which with its fragmentary, organic form, harks back to a time when the primitive artist was an anonymous craftsman, harmoniously integrated within society. As early as 1938, Miró wrote:  ‘I’d like to try my hand at sculpture, pottery, prints, to have a press. Insofar as possible I’d like to get beyond easel painting, which in my opinion pursues a petty aim, and find ways of getting closer, in terms of painting, to the broad mass of human beings who have always been in my thoughts’ (quoted by Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, London, 1962, p. 432).

This open-mindedness to medium, though first expressed in 1938, was to become a defining feature of Miró’s broad-reaching and experimental career. It was during this period that Miró undertook several large scale painted murals at a variety of sites: Harvard University (1951), the UNESCO building in Paris (1958), the University of St. Gallen (1964), and even a restaurant within a large Cincinnati skyscraper (1947). For Miró, these projects fulfilled two of his most heartfelt ambitions – to engage in collaborative projects, and to integrate his art with the most advanced form of modern civilisation. Set against the backdrop of these large commissions, the present work, stands as a fitting relic to this onset of generous public spirit. The fibro-cement allows for unexpectedly bright, deep and uniform colours; blues, reds and blacks shine out from an otherwise neutral base. In this sense it is much closer to his oil paintings than his later ceramics, whose colouration is visibly dampened by both varnish and heat. Of Miró’s paintings of this period, Dupin has written of how they ‘disclose the artist’s pursuit of a fruitful clumsiness in his graphism, an attempt, as it were, to approximate the state of innocence requisite to coming upon some primitive treasure-trove’ (ibid., p. 442). This last phrase, mirroring the reaction of Picasso at Altamira, is a fitting epitaph to this powerful, primitive fragment of Miró’s imagination.

Surrealist Art Evening Sale