Hommage à Edgar Varèse II is a seminal work within the oeuvre of Joan Miró, marking a shift from spatial Surrealism into a mature form of abstraction, inspired by the New York School that would come to define his late work. Amongst Miró’s most successful compositions, Hommage à Edgar Varèse II 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 musical composition matched that of Miró's approach to things visual. 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 Surrealism. 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. In its poetic lyricism and semiotic complexity, the present work reflects the artist’s admiration for the great composer.
Joan Miró initially came into contact with the work of the Abstract Expressionists in New York during the summer of 1947, while visiting his friends Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy. During his time there Miró became acquainted with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and 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). Miró reiterated this feeling in an interview with the historian and writer Margit Rowell 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 continued throughout the 1960s. Hommage à Edgar Varèse II captures his determination to explore the possibilities of abstraction derived 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).