Details & Cataloguing



Joan Miró
1893 - 1983
signed Miró (lower right)
gouache, watercolour, charcoal, pencil, ink and pastel on paper
100 x 69,9 cm; 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 in.
Executed on August 7, 1974.
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Galerie Maeght, Paris
Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Harcourts Gallery, San Francisco
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 1988, lot 198
Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, juin 1995 (probably)
Private collection, France
Thence by descent to the present owner


Pere Gimferrer, Miró colpir sense nafrar, Barcelona, 1978, no. 130, illustrated p. 138 (described as gouache on paper)
Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue Raisonné. Drawings, Paris, 2013, vol. IV, no. 2591, illustrated p. 97

Catalogue Note

'For me, it was the greatest freedom. Something airier, freer, lighter than anything I had ever seen. In a sense, it was absolutely perfect. Miró could not make a single mark without it falling in exactly the right place. He was such a true painter that he only had to leave three spots of colour on the canvas for it to become a painting.'
Alberto Giacometti, interviewed by Pierre Schneider 

A masterful work combining various techniques, Tête is particularly revealing of Miró's genius and poetry. The model's monumental aspect and frontal pose, combined with the vibrancy and contrast of the colours used, endow this work on paper with the presence of a real painting. Paper became Miró's medium of choice towards the end of his life, allowing him an unprecedented inventiveness and the ability to use varied techniques simultaneously, alternating spontaneous lines with a play on transparency. The resulting works are striking in their pure energy and spectacular presence, plunging the viewer directly into the heart of Miró's universe. In this lively, masterful composition, the background, which is made up of translucent, ethereal patches of colour, is just as important as the figure. Executed with a technical assurance and a pictorial economy of means typical of the last few decades of Miró's life, Tête is a work that illustrates his mature style, striking a balance between figuration and abstraction, and demonstrating his calligraphic language, which he developed throughout his career with his exquisite use of line. With its bold charcoal lines and colourful splashes, this large piece reflects the artist's expressive power. Abandoning a more figurative approach, Miró developed a lexicon of fanciful, ambiguous forms that take shape in a delightful, ever-shifting manner. 'The purpose of all of these explorations is to determine the relationship between the drawing and the materials, the relationship between line and space. The artist is not so much interested in expressing something with an appropriate technique as he is in making the material express itself in its own way. One after the other, on the same sheet, black pencil and Indian ink, watercolour and pastel, gouache and diluted oil paint, and coloured pencils ... are used, and the contrasts and similarities between them are exploited to the maximum extent possible, often beyond their capacities.' (Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, Life and Work, London, 1962, p. 372).

The pictorial vocabulary and the scale of the work reflect the influence of the new generation of American post-war painters, whom Miró discovered during his second trip to New York in 1959. Several young American painters including Jackson Pollock were inspired by Miró when making their 'drip paintings', but in the years that followed, Miró also became inspired by the spatial dimension and spontaneity of the works of this American avant-garde. Fascinated by the art of the Abstract Expressionists, he transformed the way he painted, while continuing his pursuit of simplicity and purity of line. Until the very end, he reinvented himself; he innovated. Above all, he was a painter who was free, who continued to explore different techniques and styles. Miró even went so far as to paint with his feet and toes, to pour white paint onto monumental white backgrounds and to burn his canvases: '[He was] Basquiat ten years before Basquiat.' (Jean-Louis Prat).

Tête, unfurling in a frenzy of discovery and the artist's prodigious inventiveness, attests to the influence of Jackson Pollock's gestural painting and continues a line of thought expressed by Joan Miró: 'Even more important than the painting itself is what it throws away, what it gives off. It doesn't matter if the painting itself is destroyed. Art can die, but what counts are the seeds it has spread across the earth.' (Joan Miró, interviewed by Yvon Taillandier, 15 February 1959)