Lot 327
  • 327

JOAN MIRÓ | Composition (Hommage à Edgar Varèse I)

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Joan Miró
  • Composition (Hommage à Edgar Varèse I)
  • Signed Miró (lower right); signed Miró, dated 14/IX/59 and titled (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 18 1/8 by 25 in.
  • 46 by 63.5 cm
  • Painted on September 14, 1959.


Louise & Edgar Varèse, Eugene, Oregon (acquired directly from the artist)
Diane Bouchard (a gift from the above by 1967)
Sale: Butterfield's & Butterfield's, San Francisco, March 27, 1991, lot 4178
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings, 1959-1968, vol. IV, Paris, 2002, no. 1053, illustrated in color p. 47


The painting is in excellent original condition. The canvas is unlined. The surface is clean and unvarnished. There is some extremely minor wear and losses, likely due to a prior framing. Under UV inspection, no inpainting is apparent.
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

Hommage à Edgar Varèse I is a seminal work within the oeuvre of Joan Miró, marking his shift from spatial Surrealism into a mature form of abstraction, inspired by the New York School that would come to define his late work. Executed in 1959, Hommage à Edgar Varèse I presents a mix of poetic lyricism, radical abstraction and semiotic complexity that was groundbreaking among the avant-garde during this period. Amongst Miró’s most successful compositions, Hommage à Edgar Varèse I synthesizes his remarkable visual vocabulary, striking a perfect balance between abstraction and figuration. The title of the present work alludes to Miró’s close relationship with the French émigré composer Edgar Varèse. Varèse’s radical approach to composition matched that of Miró. Known for his pioneering use of electronic instruments and creation of "sound-masses," Varèse sought to bring classical composition into the twentieth century, embracing the manifestos of Dada and the Surrealists. His work with the Russian composer Leon Theremin developed the nascent post-war musical schools in Europe and the United States, causing him to be referred to as the "father of electronic music" by the author Henry Miller and leading to his enormous impact on artists such as Frank Zappa (see fig. 3). Through his experimentation with Surreal composition, Varèse entered the artistic circle of Miró, eventually writing the score for Thomas Bouchard’s 1955 film Around and About Joan Miró. Although the exact nature of Varèse and Miró’s relationship is unclear, the present work and Hommage à Edgar Varèse II reflect the artist’s admiration for the great composer.

Joan Miró initially came into contact with the work of the American school of Abstract Expressionism in New York during the summer of 1947 whilst visiting his friends Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy. During his time there Miró became acquainted with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, he later described the effect of seeing their work "as a blow to the solar plexus." Pollock and the "Ab Ex" artists had long heralded Miró as a great source of inspiration to their explosive practice, however following the summer of 1947 it was Miró’s art that drew inspiration from the nascent American school. He stated, "it showed me the liberties we can take, and how far we can go, beyond the limits. In a sense, it freed me" (quoted in Jacques Dupin, Miró, New York, 1993, p. 303). Miro reiterated this feeling in an interview with the historian and writer Margit Rowlell in 1970: “[American painting] showed me a direction I wanted to take but which up to then had remained at the stage of an unfulfilled desire. When I saw these paintings, I said to myself, you can do it, too: go to it, you see, it is O.K.! You must remember that I grew up in the school of Paris. That was hard to break away from” (quoted in "Interview with Margit Rowell," in Margit Rowell, ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 219).

Miró's second trip to America in 1959, on the occasion of his retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, came at a crucial juncture in his career. He had not painted since 1955 and was concentrating primarily on printmaking and ceramics, while getting accustomed to a new studio that had been designed for him in Calamayor, Majorca. After Miró returned to Europe, his renewed vigor created an abundance of work which did not let up throughout the 1960s. Hommage à Edgar Varèse I encapsulates his determination to explore the possibilities in abstraction delineated from his experience in America. Jacques Dupin sums up his work from this period in his 1993 monograph on the artist, "These paintings disclose affinities—which Miró did not in the least attempt to deny—with the investigations of a new generation of painters. In these new realms, Miró was in fact, more so than any other painter, an innovator. Many of these painters, notably Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock, acknowledged their debt to Miró who, in turn, displayed lively interest in their work and never missed an opportunity to encourage and support them" (Jacques Dupin, Miró, New York, 1993, p. 304).