Lot 45
  • 45

Joan Miró

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
1,202,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Joan Miró
  • Le Réveil de Madame Bou-Bou a l'aube
  • Signed with the initial M (lower left); signed Miró, dated 1939/29/4/60, and titled on the reverse
  • Oil and pencil on canvas


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)

Acquavella Galleries, New York

Galerie Lelong & Galerie Larock-Granoff, Paris

Galerie Lelong, New York

Acquired from the above


New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Miró, Paintings, 1961

London, Tate Modern; Barcelona, Fundacio Joan Miro & Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Joan Miro, The Ladder of Escape, no. 71, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Jacques Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1961, no. 893, illustrated p. 551

Margit Rowell, ed., Joan Miró, Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 258

Miró in America (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1982, listed p. 144

Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné. Paintings, vol. IV, Argenton-sur-Creuse, 2002, no. 1083, illustrated in color p. 65

Catalogue Note

This important work reflects a moment of self-reflection in Miró's oeuvre, when he acknowledged his place within the scope of twentieth century avant-garde painting.  Begun in 1939 then reworked in 1960, this monumental canvas combines many of Miró's classic Surrealist memes of the 1930s with the compositional simplicity of the Minimalist movement of the early 1960s.  In its first state, the composition was simply "a very pale drawing," the artist told Rosamund Bernier.  "I repainted it, changed it, wiped it out" (quoted in Margit Rowell, op cit., p.258).  What resulted is the present composition, in which pentimenti and traces of the artist's physical reworking are very much a part of the grand composition. 

Miró's action here recalls his radical proclamation of 1927, "I want to assassinate painting."  But it also references some of the more recent developments in modern art.  Specifically, Miró's approach to this canvas recalls the innovative idea of his younger, American contemporary Robert Rauchenberg, whose Erased De Kooning Drawing from 1953 addressed the legitimacy of a work of art created through the process of erasure.  Miró's ambitious transformation of his own painting raises similar questions and concerns, bringing to light the artist's own developmental process. "Often, the old painting was no more than a point of departure, but something from the ealier work always remained," he explained.  "And I would start out on a new adventure.  Of the earlier canvas all that existed was a support, a reference." (ibid., p. 258).

Miró completed this large canvas in his sprawling new studio in Palma, but its origins date to 1939, before the German occupation of France and Spain.  This picture was one of many which he was forced to abandon mid-progress and leave in storage with the Parisian framers Lefebvre-Foinet until his relocation to the new Palma studio in 1956.  Opening the crates of these lost paintings compelled Miró to reassess his production.  "I went through a process of self-examination," he explained to Rosamond Bernier in the summer of 1961.  "I 'criticized' myself coldly and objectively, like a professor at the Grande Chaumière art school commenting on the work of a student.  It was a shock, a real experience.  I was merciless with myself.  I destroyed many canvases..." (Joan Miró, interview with Rosamund Bernier in L'Oeil, July-August 1961, reprinted in Margit Rowell, ed., op. cit., p. 257).  But when he came across a more inspiring composition, such as the present work or his monumental self-portrait now in the Fundació Joan Miró Barcelona (fig. 1), he set it aside for reworking.

Le Réveil de Madame Bou-Bou à l'aube
is one of the exceptional canvases that resulted from this exercise.  The picture must have pleased him, as its title is more poetic than many of the works from this period.  In the 1961 catalogue for Miró's solo show at Pierre Matisse's gallery, the present work stands out distinctly among the many Peintures and Femmes et oiseaux referenced in the listing. As he told Bernier, Miró named the composition only after he completed it in April 1960.   "Its title now is The Awakening of Madame Boubou at Dawn....The titles?  I invent them after the paintings are finished, sometimes just to amuse myself.  A painting suggests a title to me, not the other way around" (ibid.).