Lot 19
  • 19

Joan Miró

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Joan Miró
  • Sans titre
  • Signed Miró lower right; signed Miró and dedicated Pour Diane et Thomas Bouchard de tout coeur and dated NY.12.10.47 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas
  • 36 by 47 7/8 in.
  • 91.5 by 121.7 cm


Acquired from the artist by Thomas & Diane Bouchard on October 12, 1947


Excellent condition. Original canvas. The surface is intact and the colors are vibrant. Under UV, no evidence of retouching.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This extraordinary oil by Miró is a rare  work created during the artist’s trip to the United States in 1947, when his international reputation was at its height.   Painted at the end of his stay in New York that October, the picture evidences a close relationship with a major public commission he completed earlier in the year and the many influences of vibrant American culture that he absorbed during his stay. This picture is also a living testament to Miró’s working process, as its creation was documented on camera by the acclaimed filmmaker, Thomas Bouchard.  In that film, Miró explained "as I paint, the picture begins to assert itself."

In the mid-1940s, Miró’s celebrity in the United States was reaching a fever pitch.  Pierre Matisse had staged two major shows of the artist’s Constellation Series in New York to great acclaim in 1945, and over the next two years critics and young artists paid rapt attention to Miró’s productions.  It was around this time that Miró made his first trip to the United States, arriving in February 1947 to work on a mural for Cincinnati’s Tony Terrace Plaza Hotel.  With the help of his dealer Pierre Matisse and the artist Carl Holty, he set up a studio in New York and began his work.  Thrilled to have him state-side, countless American art critics, writers and general admirers bombarded the artist with requests for interviews and meetings.   At first, Miró was overwhelmed.  “Well, here in New York I cannot lead the life I want to,” Miró said in an early interview that year.  “There are too many appointments, too many people to see, and with so much going on I become too tired to paint.”  Soon afterward Miró settled into a daily rhythm, limiting his social circle to a few choice artistic companions and associates.  Among these acquaintances were Thomas and Diane Bouchard, to whom the artist dedicated the present work, which was painted at the end of his stay in New York that October.  Bouchard, who had experience photographing dancers, filmed Miró in the process of painting this picture, and the resulting composition has much of the vivacity and lyricism of a dancer in mid-act. 

On a rich blue background that characterizes his most acclaimed works of this era, Miró painted the colorful anthropomorphic forms that can also be seen in the large Cincinnati composition.  His rendering in the present canvas is much more spontaneous, with each element bearing the jagged edge of rapid execution and the movement of his brushwork.  The artist has also drawn a black border around the perimeter, suggesting the completion of the composition and alluding to the “frame” of the filming process.   What is so fascinating about this particular composition, as opposed to the pictures that Miró completed in the privacy of his studio, is that his audience could also witness the genesis of this picture.  Much in the manner of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings, which were also captured on film, this picture is a testament to the motion, hesitation and action of the artist as he arrives at his final composition. 

Miró was always reluctant to provide explanations for his picture despite the many requests he received from critics to provide a narrative for his compositions.  When he provided fanciful titles for his pictures, it was often a nod to the Surrealist poetry that influenced his compositions in the 1920s and 1930s.  On other occasions, his paintings were simply assigned minimally descriptive titles such as Woman, bird, star or given no title at all, allowing the work to speak for itself.   These compositions were always representational, no matter how “abstracted” they may have appeared to his critics.   “For me a form is never something abstract; it is always a sign of something.  It is always a man, a bird, or something else.  For me painting is never form for form’s sake. ….Forms take reality for me as I work.  In other words, rather than setting out to paint something, I begin painting and as I paint the picture begins to assert itself, or suggest itself under my brush.  The form becomes a sign for a woman or a bird as I work” (as quoted in James Johnson Sweeney, “Joan Miró: Comment and Interview,” Partisan Review, 1948).