ADOM (Association pour la défense de l'oeuvre de Joan Miró) has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
‘Miró was synonymous with freedom – something more aerial, more liberated, lighter than anything I had seen before. In one sense he possessed absolute perfection. Miró could not put a dot on a sheet of paper without hitting square on the target. He was so truly a painter that it was enough for him to drop three spots of colour on the canvas, and it would come to life – it would be a painting.’
(Giacometti, quoted in P. Schneider, ‘Miró’, in Horizon, no. 4, March 1959, pp. 70-81)
Against a vaporous white background, two sweeping, interlocking black lines dominate the canvas of Miró’s Sans titre, appearing like the majestic script of Japanese calligraphy, or the gestural forms of an enigmatic ancient scripture. Amongst these striking black markings float finely rendered stars, together with areas of softly powdered, bold colour. Painted on 1 May 1962, Sans titre dates from a time of rejuvenation and experimentation in Miró’s career. After a five-year hiatus from painting, in 1959, three years before he painted the present work, Miró had made a triumphant return to this art form, embarking on a period of feverish and intense production. He painted with a new simplicity and minimalism, starting afresh as he commenced a new phase of his long and prolific career. ‘My desire,’ he stated in 1959, three years before he painted the present work, ‘is to attain a maximum intensity with a minimum of means. That is why my painting has gradually become more spare’ (Miró, quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 251). Sans titre embodies this stylistic shift, exemplifying the radiant purity that characterises Miró’s work of the 1960s. Sans titre was presented as a gift from the artist to his doctor on 1st May 1962. He had written to his doctor in Barcelona a month before, on 2nd April 1962 profusely thanking him for ‘curing’ him, and, a month later presented him with the present work. Never before seen at auction, it has remained in the same collection ever since.
The relatively large, gestural strokes that dominate the composition of Sans titre reflect Miró’s concurrent interest in contemporary American painting. In the 1940s, Miró’s work had had a profound impact and influence on a group of artists who came to be known as the Abstract Expressionists. Having seen Miró’s art in his first retrospective of 1941 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, artists such as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell were all captivated by the work of the Catalan master, finding in his painting an idiosyncratic pictorial language and abstract, boundless conception of space that tied in to their own artistic preoccupations of the time. In 1959, Miró made a second trip to New York, this time to attend the opening of his second retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, and it was on this occasion that this artistic influence was reciprocated. This visit had a significant impact on his work: seeing the large scale, abstract and highly gestural paintings of artists such as Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and others, Miró was presented with a liberated, deeply subjective mode of pictorial expression. In Miró’s words, American Painting had ‘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’ (Miró, quoted in ‘Interview with Margit Rowell’, 1970, in Rowell, ibid., p. 279). ‘It showed me the liberties we can take, and how far we could go, beyond the limits,’ he explained to Margit Rowell. ‘In a sense, it freed me’ (Miró, quoted in J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1993, p. 303).
On his return, his painting began to show the results of this revelatory discovery. Working in his long dreamed of large, light-filled studio set high on the hills overlooking the coast in Palma de Mallorca, Miró started to paint on a larger scale. Large gestures, splashes, spots and broad unmixed strokes of colour gradually began to dominate his large canvases, presenting an unmediated, untampered form of artistic expression. Works such as Sans titre encapsulate this new graffiti–like mode of painting, the gestural markings expressing a spontaneous, raw and direct outpouring of his imagination. As Jacques Dupin described, ‘The pursuit of a profoundly individual gesture, which would result in the anonymity and universality of the act, accounts for the affinity of the works from this period with that eminently anonymous form of expression: graffiti’ (J. Dupin, ibid., p. 308). Yet, in the case of Miró, his gestures are always instantly recognisable as his own and are imbued with a supreme elegance. Though in Sans titre the black strokes have been applied to the canvas with a vigorous gesturality, their forms have a graceful rhythm as they interlock and dance across the white composition. Likewise, the finely rendered stars that create a glittering constellation surrounding the spots of colour and calligraphic lines imbue the scene with the absorbing poeticism for which Miró is best known.
Floating amidst a boundless white, oneiric space, the composition of Sans titre is in some ways reminiscent of the white, monochrome grounds in the final iteration of Miró’s ‘dream’ paintings of the mid-1920s. In these abstract paintings, whimsical signs and ciphers hovered amidst a seemingly limitless pictorial space, and the same effect is evident in the present work. Speaking of the way his forms interact and coalesce upon the picture plane, Miró explained, ‘In my paintings, the forms are both immobile and mobile. They are immobile because the canvas is an immobile support. They are immobile because of the cleanness of their contours and because of the kind of framing that sometimes encloses them. But precisely because they are immobile, they suggest motion. Because there is no horizon line or any indication of depth, they shift in depth. They also move across the surface, because a colour or a line inevitably leads to a change in the angle of vision. Inside the large forms there are small forms that move around. And when you look at the painting as a whole, the large forms also become mobile. You can even say that although they keep they autonomy, they push each other around’ (Miró, quoted in Rowell, op. cit., p. 248-249).