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    Sale 1996

    Impressionist And Modern Works On Paper

    7 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 161

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)

    Hommage d'amitié

    Price Realised  


    Joan Miro (1893-1983)
    Hommage d'amitié
    signed 'Miró' (lower left); signed again, dated and dedicated 'Miró 1947 Hommage d'amitié Teeny Matisse afectuellement' (on the backboard)
    gouache and brush and pen and India ink over pencil on paper
    12½ x 9 3/8 in. (23.8 x 31.8 cm.)
    Executed in 1947

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    The German invasion of France had forced Miró and his family to flee France in 1940, and he found himself back in his beloved homeland.
    Settling in the town of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Miró maintained a low profile in an effort to avoid the fascist dictator Ferdinand Franco's police--during the Spanish Civil War, the painter had made no secret of his allegiance to the ultimately defeated loyalist faction. During this self-imposed exile from the Parisian art scene and the horrors of war, Miró's painting continued to evolve. Having previously worked primarily in the medium of oil on canvas, upon his return to Spain he turned almost exclusively to the pursuit of creating works on paper. Using gouache, watercolor, pastel, India ink and a variety of other media, Miró executed works marked by great spontaneity, the iconography of which would revolt wildly against the dark climate of wartime Europe.

    In 1940 and 1941, Miró produced the celebrated Constellations series, representing the culmination of the abstract tendencies visible in his earlier work. His childhood home of Montroig, where part of the series was executed, had long exerted an influence on the visual vocabulary of his work. Miró recalled with childlike fervor the stars, sun, moon, insects, and vegetation with which he had been surrounded during his formative years and included somewhat abstracted interpretations of these elements in his work throughout his career. These pure elements of rural existence increasingly made their way into the artist's compositions during the war years. The Constellations, with their gleeful representations of stars, humorous anthropomorphic forms, and bright, primary colors, manifest a certain escapism, an innocence and optimism amid the brutality of the age.

    In its spontaneity and iconography, the present work certainly bears similarities with the Constellations series. As was his custom, in the present work Miró depicts a kind of dialogue between the two figures--in this case, two abstracted heads share a stylized body with jester-like feet. The surrounding forms which dance throughout the sheet--stars, spirals, eyes, geometric zigzags, and insect-like creatures--are outlined in black India ink, with bright splashes of gouache in primary colors inserted for visual effect. As we struggle to identify the individual elements of the composition in the context of Miró's unique lexicon, the cerebral effect is further enhanced by the presence of the green gouache in the upper portion of the sheet which almost appears to be legible. Of the post-Constellations works, Jacques Dupin has written:

    ...[the Constellations] were followed by a large number of watercolors, gouaches, pastels, and drawings, characterized by freedom of invention...a marvelous effortlessness. Scrupulous asceticism gives way to humor and childlike whimsicality. In this evolution of his art, which was to end in the creation of his definitive style, renewed contact with Spain after five years of absence--with Majorca most especially--was doubtless crucial...The artist's sole concern was life for the living pulse and movement of life (in Miró, exh. cat., Barcelona, 1992, pp. 257 and 260).

    Hommage d'amitié dates to 1947, by which time Miró had been granted his first major retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art (1941). Additionally, his American dealer Pierre Matisse had organized an exhibition at his gallery in 1945. Miró visited New York immediately following the war, spending time with his artist friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, and Yves Tanguy. He would ultimately return to Paris in 1948, influenced by the bright lights and incessant commotion of New York.

    The present work bears a fascinating history, as it was given by Miró as a gift to Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp, the American wife of Pierre Matisse (she would later marry Marcel Duchamp in 1954). Its title and the inscription on the reverse--"Hommage d'amitié Teeny Matisse afectuellement"--pay homage to the friendship between the Spanish painter and the American dealer who championed his work across the Atlantic.


    Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp, New York (gift from the artist).
    By descent from the above to the present owner.

    Saleroom Notice

    Jacques Dupin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Private Collection

    Pierre Matisse & Modernism in America

    Modestly deflecting the praise that this legendary dealer deserved for shaping the career of so many artists and ultimately the face of modern art, Pierre Matisse often remarked "My artists made me" (quoted in J. Russell, Matisse, Father and Son, p. 7).

    Born in 1900, Pierre Matisse was the youngest son of Henri Matisse and Amélie Parayre and practically grew up in the studio of his father. Surrounded by these hallmarks of modernism and innovations in color application, Pierre developed a discerning yet distinctly unique artistic eye. After a brief foray as an artist, Pierre embarked on his own path in a new country with the brave ambition of bringing European contemporary art to America. When Pierre arrived in New York City in 1924 there were just a few galleries and absolutely no museums taking the risk of showing contemporary art. By 1929 the Museum of Modern Art was established, followed two years later by the Whitney Museum of American Art, radically shifting the public's attention to modernism in the public sphere. In October 1931, Pierre boldly opened the doors of the Pierre Matisse Gallery in the Fuller Building on 57th Street, where he would remain until his death in 1989.

    Pierre Matisse can be credited as one of the pioneers of contemporary art in the United States, his distinction among these pioneers being his staunch support and promotion of young European artists. While his gallery got off to a start with exhibitions of more established artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, André Derain and even his father, he soon began holding shows of completely unknown, emerging artists including Joan Miró, Balthus, Alberto Giacometti and Jean Dubuffet.

    Pierre was responsible for introducing the young painter Miró to America in 1932, and would remain his dealer and close friend for over five decades, supporting and promoting the artist's diverse output over his lifetime (see lot 2 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale and lots 437, 439, 440 and 441 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Day sale and lots 161, 162, 163, 165 and 166 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper sale). In 1945, Pierre mounted the revolutionary exhibition of Miró's Constellations series, which had been painted rather covertly and unseen by practically anyone until their arrival in New York. Pierre also championed Giacometti in America, holding a landmark retrospective of the artist's sculpture, paintings and drawings in 1948, in which lot 1 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening sale was exhibited (see also lot X in the Impressionist and Modern Art Day sale). Giacometti showed his gratitude toward his esteemed dealer, writing in a letter to him, "What a life I have, thanks to you!" (quoted in ibid., p. 146.). Pierre also introduced another unfamiliar artist to America--Jean Dubuffet--ignoring the critics and public in Europe who dismissed his Art Brut style as savage and defiantly unappealing; and who would later be seen as one of the most pivotal artists of the century (see cover lot in Post-War and Contemporary Morning sale, May 14th). Pierre's stable of artists later included Marc Chagall, Yves Tanguy, Roberto Matta, Wilfredo Lam and Alexander Calder, to name a few.

    Not only was Pierre Matisse passionately dedicated to the careers of his artists, he worked assiduously to educate and challenge the top collectors and museum directors of his day. His influence on the history of modernism is witnessed in nearly every major private and public collection of 20th century art. Christie's is honored to offer a select group of works in our spring Impressionist and Modern and Post-War and Contemporary Art sales that were once championed by Pierre Matisse and have remained in his family ever since.

    Photograph of Pierre Matisse sitting for Alberto Giacometti, circa 1949.
    Photograph of Pierre Matisse, Pilar Miró, Patricia Matisse and Joan Miró, circa 1956.
    Photograph of Jean Dubuffet by Arnold Newman, 1956.