Lot 33
  • 33

JOAN MIRÓ | Dormeuse

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Joan Miró
  • Dormeuse
  • signed Miró (upper centre); signed Joan Miró, titled and dated 30/9/35. on the reverse
  • gouache, watercolour and brush and ink on paper
  • 30.5 by 36.8cm.
  • 12 by 14 1/2 in.
  • Executed on 30th September 1935.


Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist) Acquavella Modern Art, Reno, Nevada

Private Collection, Japan (sold: Sotheby's, New York, 7th November, 1998, lot 412)

Private Collection, Geneva (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 4th December 2000, lot 40)

Galerie Malingue, Paris

Private Collection, Japan

Acquired by the present owner in 2005


Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Joan Miró, 1962, no. 130


Jacques Dupin & Ariane Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue Raisonné. Drawings, Paris, 2008, vol. I, no. 536, illustrated in colour p. 260

Catalogue Note

Executed in September 1935 in a climate of escalating political hostility that preceded the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Dormeuse encapsulates the essence of Joan Miró’s output from this period. The year 1935 marked a transition in the artist’s mood and an abrupt change in his painting. Unlike the series he completed in 1934, comprising airy compositions of supple linear figures rendered in Indian ink and floating above faint clouds of pastel shades, his 1935 works represent a world of primitive figures rendered in ominous tones (fig 1). His imagery became increasingly anxiety-ridden, prompting the artist himself to proclaim the works he created over the next four years as his 'savage paintings'. In 1979, Miró recalled his state of mind while working in Barcelona on the cusp of the Civil War: ‘Unconsciously I was living in an atmosphere of anxiety characteristic of when something grave must surely take place. Like before it rains: heaviness of head, an aching in the bones, and an asphyxiating dampness. It was more a physical than a moral distress. I sensed a catastrophe and I didn’t know what it would be [...]. I tried to portray this tragic atmosphere that tormented me and that I felt inside me’ (quoted in Joan Miró 1893/1993 (exhibition catalogue), Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1993, p. 313).

From 1935 Miró engaged with a lexicon of hybrid creatures; the sleeping figure in Dormeuse - composed in equal parts of whimsy and menace - embodies the emotional battle the Spanish people endured in the months leading up to the war. Miró thickens his rich ink lines and darkens the ground colours. ‘The serene works of the years devoted to concentration on plastic concerns and to spiritual control of figures and signs now gave way to a new outburst of subjectivism, to an expressionistic unleashing of instinctual forces. The volcano which for some years now had been quiescent suddenly erupted’ (J. Dupin, Joan Miró: Life and Work, London, 1962, p. 262). For all their explosive power, the fantastical creatures are rendered with great control and attention to detail. The artist achieves the balance of conveying the intensity and fear that pervaded his native country at this time while not allowing his art to be overwhelmed by it – he remains sure-handed and the master of his imagery.

Miró’s artistic response during this year is not just a reflection of the evils forces around him but is also evocative of aspects of his personal life that he treasured most, such as the landscape and animals that surrounded his farmhouse in Montroig. His love of the countryside dates back to 1911 when his father purchased the farmhouse and it played a vital role in his subsequent life and work. As Dupin explains, Miró intended his monstrous figures to be expressions of organic growth and his 1935 works ‘have shown us how Miró was sometimes surprised and overwhelmed by the images of terror that pursued him. We saw, too, how sometimes he succeeded, by force or will, or trickery, to drive them away or otherwise get free of them. He had not yet accepted their intrusion as an irresistible fatality, still less as a possible means of salvation… In these paintings all things are moving flowing, growing, and growing to monstrous excess: this is why every single element draws us into the metamorphosis and makes us not just see it but also perceive it organically’ (J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2012, pp. 199-202). Dormeuse is an affirmation of hope in the face of political terror; while conveying the turbulence of Miró’s environment, the peaceful connotation of sleep resonates with optimism and represents a form of escapism.

While Miró was enjoying relative acclaim by the early 1930s, it was the work he produced throughout this decade and in the early 1940s that established his reputation and laid the foundation of his universe. Originally inspired by the dream imagery and ‘psychic automatism’ expounded in André Breton’s Surrealist manifesto of 1924, Miró embraced the idea of mediating the unconscious mind through drawing or painting for the rest of his career, influencing the Abstract Expressionists in America, who in turn inspired the Catalan artist, creating a meaningful artistic dialogue that shaped the art of the latter half of the twentieth century.