Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Sans titre
signed 'Miró' (upper center)
gouache, watercolor and brush and India ink on paper
11¾ x 9 3/8 in. (29.9 x 23.8 cm.)
Painted in 1936
Landau Fine Art, Inc., Montreal (by 1988).
Montreal, Landau Fine Art, Inc., 19th & 20th Century Masters, Summer 1988, p. 52 (illustrated in color, p. 53).
Sale room notice
Jacques Dupin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

Created during a time of extreme internal conflict for the poetic painter, this work reflects Miró's anxiety over the Spanish Civil War. Miró repeatedly maintained his intention to remain in Catalonia, until finally fleeing to Paris in October 1936, three months into the beginning of the war. Jacques Dupin describes the early 1930s as years of great importance in the development of Miró's work: "... it was just at this time that his art underwent changes as sudden and far reaching as to deserve the term 'cataclysmic.' The serene works of the years devoted to concentration on plastic concerns and to spiritual control of figures and signs now gave way to a new outburst of subjectivism, to an expressionistic unleashing of instinctual forces. The volcano which for some years now had been quiescent suddenly erupted. The clear skies suddenly clouded over, and a violent storm proceeded to darken the peaceful artistic climate--indeed, to shake Miró's art to its foundation" (in Joan Miró, Life and Work, London, 1962, p. 262).

From the early 1930s onward, Miró went through a period of continuous experimentation in techniques and materials: paintings and drawings on cardboard and sandpaper, drawings in India ink on white paper, paintings on uralita wood, tempera paintings on masonite, oil paintings on copper and experimental collage. The current work reflects Miró's anti-war, anti-tyranny themes. A female figure at the center of the composition, emblematic of Franco's minions, is about to devour a startled woman in the midst of what appears to be an explosion, suggested by the energetic spots of red, black and white pigment thrown to the bold red background. This work may be Miró's response to the countless other outrages suffered by the civilian population in Spain. The tenebrous mood of menace and the depiction of atrocity recall the precedent of an earlier Spanish master, Francisco Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra, his outcry against the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars, which he drew and etched in 1810-1820. Goya's spirit also informed Miró's works on paper during the anguished months of the spring and summer of that year, when the news from Madrid and Barcelona was hopeful one day, and dreadful the next. In an interview with Georges Duthuit, published in Cahiers d'Art in 1936, Miró said, "I am pessimistic, tragically pessimistic. No illusions are permitted. There will be a struggle against everything that represents the pure value of the spirit" (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 154).

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