Miró found his bearings as a sculptor in the solitary years of the Second World War, embracing the culture of peasant craft in rural Catalunya and Mallorca as a source for a new and vital approach to sculpture rooted in the world of objects. In notebooks from this time, Miró anticipated a new engagement with sculpture, writing: "When sculpting, start from the objects I collect, just as I make use of the stains on paper and imperfections in a canvas--do this here in the country in a way that is really alive, in touch with the elements of nature...do it like a collage of various elements...that is the only thing--this magic spark--that counts in art" (in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, pp. 175, 191). By the late 1960s, his sculptures had become fully three-dimensional collages: "My collages, today, are my sculptures," Miró declared in 1977--and in these colorfully painted bronzes first conceived a descade earlier he raises his gift of metamorphosis to new heights (quoted in W. Jeffett, The Shape of Color: Joan Miró's Painted Sculpture, exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 33).
These later sculptures reflect retrospectively on Miró's oeuvre, invoking both the playful, risk-taking attitude of the Surrealist 1930s and the telluric nationalism more characteristic of his work upon his return to Spain. "To paint, to sculpt, to etch, is maybe to give form to a myth," Miró reflected in 1974. "If I frequently integrate the objects as they are, with raw materials, it is not to obtain a plastic effect but by necessity...I need to walk on my earth, to live among my own, because everything that is popular is necessary for my work" (quoted in ibid., p. 21).
The elements of Personnage were regular habitués of the studio built for him near Palma by his friend, Josep Lluis Sert, in 1956. Butcher blocks, here painted fire-engine red, were a familiar presence in the Sert studio, and wooden tripods had appeared as early as 1944 in his studio in Barcelona. These forms had undergone a long gestation in his creative imagination; and in the case of Personnage, sketchbook drawings suggest that the definitive composition and title were decided in advance of its creation. Above the tripod and butcher block sits the lid of a wheat container, reconfigured as a primitive yellow face, its eyes and mouth painted and incised into its surface. Stretching upwards above this delightfully grotesque head is a rake used for separating wheat from chaff, perhaps suggesting the extensions of hair or of a displaced limb. "This character is neither male nor female," William Jeffett has explained. "It is more of a fantastic apparition of a mythic creature" (ibid., p. 36). Yet its monstrosity is of the most charming kind, as a reviewer for Art News remarked in 1970:
"All the sculptures, in one way or another, seem to express the fantasy of matter becoming animate... But they do it in such a way that not even the most timid child would be frightened. These monsters are friendly, or at the most burlesquely frightening like the Meanies in the Beatles cartoon film, something to giggle about rather than cry over, an attempt, perhaps, on Miró's part to laugh us out of our bad dreams" (quoted in L. Coyle, "The Monsters in America: the Presentation and Reception of Miró's Sculpture in the United States," in op. cit., exh. cat., 2002, p. 80).
(fig. 1) The artist with Personnage. Photograph by Claude Gaspari. BARCODE 26015668