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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London

Joan Miró
1893 - 1983
PEINTURE
signed Joan Miró and dated 5.6.33. on the reverse
oil on canvas
130 by 96.8cm.
51 1/8 by 38 1/8 in.
Painted on 5th June 1933.
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Provenance

André Lefèvre, Paris

Perls Galleries, New York (acquired by 1966)

Mr & Mrs Alexander Calder, Roxbury, Connecticut (acquired in 1966 and transferred to the Estate of Alexander Calder in 1976)

Galerie Maeght, Paris

Galerie Maeght, New York

Private Collection, Madrid (acquired by 1985. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 11th November 1999, lot 134)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Georges Bernheim, Dernières œuvres de Joan Miró, 1933

New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Joan Miró, 1933-34, no. 10 (titled Composition)

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Collection André Lefèvre, 1964, no. 199 (titled Composition)

New York, Perls Galleries, Twenty-One Major Acquisitions, 1966, no. 13, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Composition)

Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art & Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art, Joan Miró Exhibition - Japan, 1966, no. 40, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Miró, 1968, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

Barcelona, Ayuntamiento de Barcelona, Recinto del Antiguo Hospital de la Santa Cruz, Miró, 1968-69, no. 29, illustrated in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

Paris, Galeries Nationales d’Exposition du Grand Palais, Joan Miró, 1974, no. 43, illustrated upside-down in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)
 
Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Picasso-Miró-Dalí: Evocations d'Espagne, 1985, no. 17, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Zurich, Kunsthaus & Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Joan Miró, 1986-87, no. 81, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Joan Miró: A Retrospective, 1987, no. 65, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (with incorrect measurements)

Literature

Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, Life and Work, New York, 1962, no. 340, illustrated p. 527 (with incorrect measurements) 

Margit Rowell, Miró, New York, 1968, no. 42, illustrated (with incorrect measurements)

Alexandre Cirici Pellicer, Miró en su obra, Bercelona, 1970, no. 21, illustrated p. 81 (with incorrect measurements)

James Johnson Sweeney, Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1970, illustrated in colour pl. 68; illustrated in colour in a photograph of the 1968-69 exhibition in Barcelona pl. 5 (with incorrect measurements)

Michel Tapié, Joan Miró, Milan, 1970, no. 42, illustrated (with incorrect measurements)

Alexandre Cirici Pellicer, Miró Mirall, Barcelona, 1977, no. 28, illustrated in colour p. 43 (with incorrect measurements)

Pere Gimferrer, The Roots of Miró, Barcelona, 1993, cat. 591, fig. 338, illustrated in colour p. 191 (with incorrect measurements)

Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné. Paintings, Paris, 2000, vol. II, no. 429, illustrated in colour p. 82 (with incorrect measurements)

Agnès de la Beaumelle, Joan Miró 1917-1934, 2004, illustrated in a photograph of the 1933-34 exhibition in New York p. 361

Catalogue Note

Striking in its modernity and imposing in scale, Peinture, dating from June 1933, exemplifies the stylistic qualities that distinguish Miró not only as a master Surrealist, but also as a leading figure of the European avant-garde in the inter-war years. Following a period of the artist’s self-proclaimed ‘assassination of painting’, during which time he turned his energy to other modes of expression, the year 1933 signified his return to the medium of oil painting on a large scale, as well as an intensely creative moment during which his previous explorations in the medium of collage brought a new quality to his painting. 

 

In January 1933 Miró embarked on a series of works executed with a novel sense of plasticity and in the six months that followed he created a group of eighteen large-scale canvases that have come to occupy a vital position in the Modernist canon. Like the other paintings from this series, the majority of which are now in major museums such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art (fig. 1) and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (fig. 2), Peinture is infused with a personal language that is at once abstract in its forms and legible to the viewer. The works in this series took as their inspiration a group of collages that Miró executed in January and February 1933, using illustrations from newspapers, magazines and posters. The present oil has its origin in a collage executed on 6th February which Miró kept in his own collection and donated to the Fundació Joan Miró in 1976. The migration of forms from collage to oil paint is a startling testament to Miró's sophisticated formal exploration throughout this series as well as a reflection of his fascination with different surfaces and materials. The printed elements in the original collage become monumentalised in the subsequent painting, transformed from mechanical objects to organic forms pulsating with energy.

 

Carolyn Lanchner explained the artist’s working method: ‘Miró went about compiling his collection of collaged cultural artefacts systematically; when a sheet held whatever he deemed to be its proper complement of glued images, he carefully dated it, set it aside, and moved on to the next. This phase of his enterprise was finished with the execution of the eighteenth collage, dated February 11, 1933; he was then ready to begin the second phase, the execution of eighteen large-scale canvases to be based on the collages and to follow them in exact chronological sequence. As he finished each painting, he inscribed the collage that had been its impetus with the canvas size and date of completion’ (C. Lanchner in Joan Miró (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993, pp. 58-59).

 

Miró himself recognised these works as a personal breakthrough, referring to them in a letter to Pierre Matisse as 'a great success that might mark a red letter day in my career' (letter from Miró to Matisse, 5th November 1933, Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives). In turn, the critical reception of these paintings was unprecedented for Miró, signifying a pivotal point in his career. James Johnson Sweeney, a noted critic who had in his collection another oil from this group, now at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, lauded Miró and referred to the 'ripe individuality and assured rhythms of his latest canvases as seen at the Galerie Pierre.' He continued: ‘In other periods in which he was handling larger elements and more generous voids he seemed happier. Even there, at times an uncertainty, an overstress, or a sense of tentativeness would creep in. But in these later works all trace of uneasiness has disappeared - each canvas, an assured, complete plastic unit with nothing to begrudge its fellow' (J. J. Sweeney in Cahiers d'Art, nos. 1-4, 1934, pp. 48-49).

Oliver Wick wrote of this series: 'Miró established his new working procedure in a series, launching for the first time an extensive sequence of large formats. It was probably the overwhelming impression of this space as a whole that prompted Miró to speak of a success and a turning point in his career. The new compositions were based principally on illustrations of machine parts or appliances, cut out and made into collages. Miró had arranged this series of collages on the walls of his small Barcelona studio, to "provoke chance" and to derive further forms from their "motifs and actions." From these visual associations emerged painting after painting, lucid and pure. The intrinsic cohesion and spatial effect of the "Peintures d'après collages" now led to the artist's first true mural commission, entirely in French tradition of "décorations" - paintings in the context of an architectural whole' (O. Wick in Calder/Miró (exhibition catalogue), Fondation Beyeler, Basel & Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 58).

The present work reveals a decisive move towards abstraction but Miró grounds his forms in his experience of the world, a vital element of his art. In Peinture, Miró is faithful to the choreography of forms within the original collage yet he creates a relation between these elements that coalesces into an organic whole. Jordana Mendelson has written of these works as a discovery of the poetry inherent in mechanical forms: '[Miró] described the "struggle... to achieve a maximum clarity, force, and plastic aggressiveness." Combining collecting with creating and hallucination with production, this series of pairs suggests a sustained interrogation into the mass culture of Catalan modernity and the mechanics of painting, with the banality of modern culture transformed, in order to revolutionise painting and viewer's expectations of it, into a foundation for Miró's own artistic experiments. In the paintings, with their variegated washes of background colour, prominent use of outline, saturated hues, and vivid, balanced compositions, Miró reproduced the precarious equilibrium, embodied in his collages, between the catalogue like taxonomy of the reproductions and their fundamental poetry - the organic forms present in the shapes of the propellers, plumbing, and industrial parts' (J. Mendelson, 'Paintings Based on Collages', in Joan Miró, Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937 (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, pp. 117-118).

 

Miró finished working on the last painting from this series in mid-June in his studio in Barcelona, and before the end of the month he moved to Paris, bringing the works with him. In October-November 1933 the entire group was shown at Galerie Georges Bernheim, in an exhibition organised by Pierre Loeb. In December 1933 and January 1934 the group of large oils, including the present composition, made its debut in the United States with the exhibition at Pierre Matisse’s gallery in New York. The sheer originality and scale of these works would have an immense effect on Miró’s contemporaries as well as on subsequent generations of artists. In particular, there is a clear dialogue between Miró's paintings and the sculptures of his close friend Alexander Calder, who owned the present work in the 1960s. Indeed, the intersecting forms in the present work find a parallel with Calder's stabiles executed a few years later (fig. 4). Echoes of Miró's biomorphic formology can be found in works by other Surrealists, such as Yves Tanguy and Jean Arp, while the personal iconography visible in the present work is entirely unique to Miró.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London