Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Signes et figurations

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Signes et figurations
signed 'Miró' (lower right)
oil on tarred and sanded paper
39 1/8 x 30½ in. (99.7 x 77.5 cm.)
Painted in 1936
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (no. ST-3150).
Acquavella Galleries, New York (no. 2127).
Claude Kechichian, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2000.
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1961, no. 432, p. 518.
J. Dupin & A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue Raisonné. Paintings, vol. II, 1931-1941, Paris, 2000, no. 520, p. 152 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions 100 x 122 cm, 39 3/8 x 48 in.)
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Impactes. Joan Miró 1929-1941, November 1988 - January 1989, no. 45, p. 77 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, February - April 1989.
Yokohama, Museum of Art, Joan Miró. Centennial Exhibition: The Pierre Matisse Collection, January-March 1992, no. 23, p. 72 (illustrated).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Lot Essay

#his work is sold with a photo-certificate from Jacques Dupin and ADOM.

Joan Miró's Signes et figurations was created during a time of enormous creative and personal upheaval for the artist. By the mid 1930s he had moved beyond the dreams and whimsical fantasy that had characterised his earlier Surrealist work and into a new area that favoured direct expression in a new, rougher and more vigorous form. Using chance association and a deliberately crude style, Miró was attempting to avoid the mannered traps and habits of conventional painting in his work. Signes et figurations stems from this process of reinvention and belongs to a series of paintings instigated in 1935, that Miró described as tar-paper graffiti. While experimenting with construction materials in assemblage works and collages, he had discovered the heavy-duty tarred and sand-covered paper that was typically used to waterproof roofs. Applying paint to this coarse surface created a play of contrasting textures between the smooth pigment and gritty ground that the painter enjoyed, and it became a regular arena for his intuitively distorted figures and obscure lexicon of signs. Executed in 1936, Signes et figurations is a painting without canvas or color, nor does it have tonal modelling or any other techniques one would normally associate with painting. Miró has used black oil paint in a purely linear manner, creating a raw yet extremely refined work that explores the precarious balance between chaos and order. A rudimentary human visage is clearly visible, as are a crescent moon and a slithering snake, but they have been reduced to a cipher-like collection of lines that conveys only the essence of each entity. These incredibly fluid contours have been drawn swiftly and spontaneously and in this way capture a sense of motion that infuses the picture with life.

Signes et figurations was born of a period of fervent experimentation in which Miró sought to escape from purely visual experience, and to lead his art in a more conceptual direction. 'I don't know where we are going' Miró said of himself and some of his fellow avant-garde artists in 1931, 'my only certainty is that I want to destroy, destroy everything that exists in painting, I have the deepest scorn for painting; only the pure spirit interests me' (quoted in F. Melgar, 'Spanish Artists in Paris: Juan [sic] Miró', in Ahora, Madrid, 24 January 1931). During this time, Miró fearlessly explored unorthodox techniques and materials: in paintings and drawings on sandpaper, paintings on uralita wood, tempera paintings on masonite, oil paintings on copper, scrap assemblages, as well as using enamel paints, shoe polish, casein, tar, sand, and pebbles. Miró's extraordinary sensitivity to surface and media is revealed to an unprecedented degree in his collages from 1928-29 in which sandpaper, tar-paper and flocked papers first appeared. In works like Danseuse espagnole I (1928, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) and Untitled (1929, Paris, Musée national d?Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou) sandpaper and tar-paper are used as collage elements, whereby geometric shapes are cut out and adhered to the surface to create contrasting tones and textures within the overall composition. By 1934 Miró began to use tar-paper again, this time as an irregular support for oil paintings and drawings.

Miró's biographer Jacques Dupin describes the ingenuity and inventiveness of the artist's sandpaper paintings: 'On sandpaper, he first executed several paintings in numerous colors...His fondness for highly sensitive backgrounds told him how much could be obtained from the grainy, gritty, yet luminous texture of sandpaper. The forms he set down on it are very assertive, but they seem to propagate themselves freely in almost indefinable figurations, all curves and lengthy elaborations, sharply defined and sober in color. The very dense texture of the sandpaper flattens forms as no other medium does, giving the lines the quality of extreme rapidity... With figures reduced to nonchalantly tormented contours, Miró seems to be undertaking an exploration of the infinitesimal' (in J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2004, p. 182). In Signes et figurations recognisable form almost disappears, leaving behind a few embryonic and elementary lines. Its expressivity and attention to surface and material seems to prefigure the concerns of action painting and tachisme, which would preoccupy a younger generation in the post-war years.

Miró's attack on artistic conventions and his painting's newfound aggression and drama coincided with political turmoil in his native country. In 1936, the year Signes et figurations was painted, Franco's forces crossed from Spanish Morocco to the mainland in an effort to oust the democratically elected left-wing government in Madrid, and within a short time the fascist army and its Falangist allies had taken control of much of the country. Mass arrests, internecine bloodletting, and the spreading web of totalitarian subjugation and oppression weighed heavily on Miró's mind. The fate of Catalunya and Barcelona, a hotbed of leftist activity, lay in the balance. Miró had been spending most of his time since mid-1935 working in his family's residences in Barcelona and nearby Montroig. There had already been local outbreaks of factional violence, and Miró, who backed the loyalist, pro-government cause, was concerned that the situation would soon deteriorate. He left for Paris in October 1936, bringing with him some recent works he planned to ship to his new agent, Pierre Matisse, in New York. By late November the situation in Spain had become so precipitous that Miró decided to stay in Paris, and he sent for his wife Pilar and daughter Dolores to join him. The family would remain in France for four years.

These events had a significant impact on Miró's art, leading to the creation of works like Signes et figurations that the artist called his 'savage paintings'. Jacques Dupin explains: 'The serene works of the years devoted to concentration on plastic concerns and to spiritual control of figures and signs, gave way to a new outburst of subjectivity, to an expressionist unleashing of instinctual forces. The volcano which for some years had been dormant suddenly erupted. What seems to have changed was not as much Miró as the course of modern times around him. Liberated by art from personal conflicts, Miró was now to experience and express the collective tragedy as an inner torment... Miró's works would then give expression to all this in the form of an assault upon the human figure, disintegrating it utterly, submerging it in a tidal wave of unleashed elemental powers. It is as though the Spanish tragedy and, later, the horrors of the Second World War had first broken out in the works of the Catalan artist, long before setting ablaze his country and the rest of the world' (J. Dupin, Miró, Barcelona, 1993, p. 185).

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