• Impressionist/Modern Evening S auction at Christies

    Sale 2216

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    3 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 13

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)

    L'oiseau déploie son beau plumage

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)
    L'oiseau déploie son beau plumage
    signed 'Miró' (lower right); dated '1952' (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    8 5/8 x 4 7/8 in. (21.9 x 12.4 cm.)
    Painted in 1952


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    In 1952 Miró painted three small canvases of equal dimensions, each with an elaborate title, which taken together could have comprised a delightful, cabinet-sized triptych: these are the present work, Chanson du bleu de la lune à la verte robe étincelles jaunes (Dupin, no. 916), and L'oiseau déploie les ailes pour parer de ses plumes les étoiles (Dupin, no. 917). From the time Miró resumed oil painting on canvas near the end of the Second World War, after having executed for nearly five years only works in various media on paper, he liked to vary to an extreme degree the size of his compositions, which ranged from the very smallest formats to grand murals that filled entire walls. His first new paintings in 1944 were little more than a foot tall (35 cm.), and many subsequently were even smaller; indeed, during that year he painted sixteen works in the no. 1 figure and marine formats (the French code for canvas sizes measuring 22 x 16 cm. or 22 x 12 cm.), similar to that used here. Miró appears to have retained a special affection for this compact surface area, returning to it occasionally thereafter into the early 1950s.

    The larger canvases lent themselves to fluid, free brushstrokes, employing the full sweep of the arm, such as Miró now liked to practice, having seen first-hand and absorbed the influence of American abstract painting during his first trip to the United States in 1947. On a smaller canvas the artist usually painted in the manner that he carried over from the celebrated Constellations of 1940-1941 (Dupin, nos. 628-650). With some deliberation and a sure, steady hand, Miró first drew thin lines in black paint on a tinted ground, creating a very succinct and precise sign for the subject he had in mind. He thereafter filled in select sections of the drawing with solid, unmodeled colors, creating the brilliant effect of stained glass, which gives these small canvases a facetted, jewel-like quality. This is actually the method that Miró practiced while executing the imagery in his very largest canvases of this period, the murals he painted for the Terrace Plaza Hotel, Cincinnati, in 1947 (Dupin, no. 817; Cincinnati Museum of Art) and for Harvard University, Cambridge, in 1951 (Dupin, no. 893; The Museum of Modern Art, New York). During 1952 Miró made his second trip to the States, to view in situ the Cincinnati and Cambridge murals, and it is possible that the artist may have had some aspect of the murals in mind when he painted the present work and its companions. The conception is the same, and in this regard, the scale is irrelevant--much of the pleasure to be had from Miró's small canvases is that their imagery possesses a monumental and universal aspect, set within an intimately scaled format.

    The present painting and the other two related works share a similar compositional configuration: an airborne form near the top of the canvas hovers over a figure in the lower part. The flying form here and in Dupin, no. 917 is a bird on extended wings, "spreading its fine plumage" or "spreading its wings to adorn the stars with its feathers." The aerial object in Dupin, no. 916 is a blue crescent moon. The asterisk-like signs in these pictures are the artist's symbol for a star, thus completing Miró's signature allegorical triumvirate of a oiseau, personnage et étoile, which represent the earthly and cosmic spheres of being, with the bird serving as prophet and intermediary, bringing messages to humankind from the great beyond.

    Provenance

    Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owners, July 1957.


    Pre-Lot Text

    From the Estate of Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman sold to Benefit the Reisman Charitable Foundation


    Christie's is pleased to offer works from the Estate of Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman in our Fall Impressionist & Modern Art Evening, Day and Works on Paper sales, Post-War & Contemporary Evening sale and Morning Session, and in our Spring sale of 20th Century Decorative Art and Design. Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman owned the Wine Merchants, Ltd. Companies, located in New York, Ohio, and Florida, for more than fifty years. Their success in this industry enabled them to amass an astute and varied collection of Modern masterpieces by artists ranging from Joan Miró and Marc Chagall to Alexander Calder and George Nakashima.

    Throughout their lives, the Reismans were passionate supporters of community organizations. Marshall Reisman was president, board member, and chairman of the Jewish Community Center and Temple Adeth Yeshurun, and was also on the board of trustees of the Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital Foundation, the Central New York Community Foundation, Cazenovia College, Syracuse State, and the Culinary Institute of America. It is therefore only fitting that the proceeds of these sales will benefit the Reisman Charitable Foundation and continue the Reisman's long cherished tradition of giving. The Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation remains committed to using its resources to enhance quality of living throughout central New York through the support of local organizations.

    From the Estate of Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman sold to Benefit the Reisman Charitable Foundation


    Literature

    J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1961, p. 544, no. 797.
    J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné: Paintings 1942-1955, Paris, 2001, vol. III, p. 192, no. 915 (illustrated).