Lot 337
  • 337


180,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Joan Miró
  • Tête
  • signed Miró (lower right); dated 23/III/71 26/III/71, titled and numbered VI on the verso
  • gouache and wax crayon on paper


Doña Pilar Miró Juncosa, Palma de Mallorca (the artist's wife; sale: Sotheby's, Madrid, 9th December, 1986, lot 23)
Helly Nahmad Gallery, London
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 6th May 2009, lot 214
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné. Drawings 1960-1972, Paris, 2012, vol. III, no. 2297, illustrated in colour p. 296

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1971, Miró’s Tête is the playful and poised result of decades of experimentation with both motif and medium. The archetypal figures of a woman and bird first emerged in the artist’s representational work of 1917. It was not, however, until the completion of his 1941 Constellation series that the symbols were absorbed into his enduring visual lexicon. Here, a singular white line defines the two intrinsically intertwined figures, the woman on the right and the bird to her left. A pulsing, red circle strings the figures together once more to declare them the work’s mutual protagonist. The motif and composition are first accessed through the title, Tête, referencing the multitude of figurations that begin to emerge. Although the symbols that account for Miró’s iconography are undoubtedly abstract, for him they represented immediate manifestations of his perceived reality or subjects. With reference to the signs and symbols embedded in his work, Miró remarked: 'It might be a dog, a woman, or whatever. I don’t really care. Of course, while I am painting, I see a woman or a bird in my mind, indeed, very tangibly a woman or a bird. Afterward, it’s up to you' (Joan Miró & Georges Raillard, Ceci est la couleur de mes rêves, Paris, 1977, p. 128).

Tête exemplifies Miró’s continued confidence in the potential of his line while simultaneously espousing his later experimentations with other expressive forms of mark-making. The work sits at the intersection of control and spontaneity, where experimental and emotive flecks of pure white paint and pastel embrace the linear figures. These drippings of white paint pierce through their hazy, brown background, evocative of the stars against the night sky – another of the artist’s favored motifs.

On finding a balance between the spontaneous and deliberate, Miró stated: 'I provoke accidents – a form, a splotch of color. Any accident is good enough. I let the matière decide. Then I prepare a ground by, for example, wiping my brushes on the canvas. Letting fall some drops of turpentine on it would do just as well. If I want to make a drawing I crumple the sheet of paper or I wet it; the flowing water traces a line and this line may suggest what is to come next' (Joan Miró & Jacques Lassaigne, Miró, New York, 1963, p. 46). Tête is an excellent example of this complex equilibrium, as Miró first crumpled the paper before embarking on the composition. The effect is furthered by the choice of support – a richly toned brown Japanese paper – as the textured and antiqued background offsets the crisp, bright abstract forms. The paper is yet another of Miró’s many experiments during the 1960s and 1970s, where he worked with a range of mediums, from canvas fragments to burned masonite. The final result is a dynamic and poetic composition, one which oscillates between abstraction and figuration, spontaneity and intent, and innovation and tradition