Private Collection, Germany
Jan Krugier, Geneva (acquired in 1989)
Private Collection, Amsterdam (acquired from the above in 2006)
Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Artistes Espagnols du XXe siècle, 1989, no. 51, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect medium)
New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Traces: Primitive and Modern Expressions, 2001-02, no. 1, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect medium)
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny - Musée Maillol, Le Feu sous les cendres: de Picasso à Basquiat, 2005-06 (not in the catalogue)
Elan Vital oder das Auge des Eros (exhibition catalogue), Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1994, no. 491, illustrated in colour pl. 350 (with incorrect medium)
Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné. Paintings, Paris, 1999, vol. I, no. 315, illustrated in colour p. 233 (with incorrect medium)
As in the artist’s most successful works of the 1920s, this composition consists of a visual vocabulary of 'image-signs'. These images bear little resemblance to the natural world, and their function is more akin to that of words or music than to a literal representation of nature. The whimsical, enigmatic poetry of Miró’s vision made him unique amongst his fellow Surrealists. Whereas many of his contemporaries – following the ideology espoused by André Breton and his cohorts – generally worked in a figurative manner, for Miró the liberty granted by the Surrealist attitude to experimentation led him to become extremely imaginative with forms of representation, and eventually to embrace total abstraction (fig. 1). He met Breton in 1925 and participated in the Surrealists' first exhibition held at the Galerie Pierre in Paris that year. Breton's first Surrealist manifesto of 1924 proclaimed: 'I believe in the future resolution of these two states, seemingly so contradictory, which are dream and reality, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality'. Breton commented that Miró 'may be looked upon as the most Surrealist among us' (A. Breton, 'Le Surréalisme et la peinture', quoted in J. Dupin, op. cit., p. 156).
In the present work Miró retains the spirit of suggestive anthropomorphism that characterised much of his work in the earlier part of the decade (fig. 2). This might have been encouraged by the lyrical figuration of the imaginative landscapes and portraits that he painted in the years directly preceding 1930. Dupin described this stylistic experimentation as integral to the artist’s creative development: ‘His creativity was an alternating current, and the energy of his mutations flowed from two equal and opposite poles. Contrasting styles and methods enhance and authenticate each other. Each grows by competing with the other, drawing its creative strength from the conflict, which is also a form of complicity […]. There is an ambivalence of style, but both styles come from a common nucleus’ (J. Dupin, Joan Miró. A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1987, p. 37).
Although simplified into ‘image-signs’, the constituent elements of the present work offer an interpretive possibility; Miró combines a multi-coloured circle and bold horizontal line reminiscent of a palette and paintbrush with the dynamically posed figure, suggesting a portrait of the artist at work. The careful balance of these three elements, with the ‘brush’ acting as a fulcrum at the centre of the composition, imbues the work with a vibrant energy. Throughout the 1920s the artist had employed a limited number of backgrounds – from bare canvas, to luminous ultramarine blue and scumbled and stained ochre and brown grounds – and in the present work he once again adopts a rich, elemental brown elevating the oneiric qualities of the imagery. As Dupin elaborates: ‘In the ferment of blue or dark brown, the presence of a head or a horse is less significant than the exploration of emptiness by lines and dots and marks, the examination of the pictorial itself, which is carried out by the sorcery of pure gesture’ (ibid., p. 38).
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