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

Deux personnages

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Deux personnages
signed and dedicated 'pour Ruthven Todd Miró' (upper center)
gouache, watercolour, wax crayons and pencil on paper laid down on board
14 7/8 x 12 5/8 in. (37 x 32 cm.)
Executed in 1938
Ruthven Todd, London, a gift from the artist in 1938.
Kelmscott Gallery, Chicago.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's London, 29 November 1989, Lot 477.
Private collection, Switzerland; sale, Christie's London, 9 December 1999, lot 571.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Dupin & A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné. Drawings 1938-1959, Paris, 2010, vol. II, no. 868, p. 46 (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

'The more I work, the more I want to work. I would like to try...in as much as possible, to go beyond easel painting, which in my opinion has a narrow goal, and to bring myself closer, through painting, to the human masses I have never stopped thinking about.' (Joan Miró, 'I dream of a Large Studio', May 1938, quoted in Margit Rowell, ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1986, p. 162)

Painted in the spring of 1938, this untitled gouache, ink and crayon work is one of an extraordinary series of powerful and often traumatic images depicting victims suffering from unknown and unseen assailants that Miró made between 1938 and 1939. Among the most urgent and vulnerable images of Miró's entire career, these works are infused with what Miro's friend and biographer Jacques Dupin described as 'a tragic atmosphere' that 'still betrays the torment caused by the continuing Spanish war...(along with)... the painter's resolution, his resistance and solidarity with the Republican forces...(often)...embodied in a familiar figure: a naked woman, or the Catalan peasant.' (Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, New York, 1993, pp. 217-218)

As Miró once said of the giant figure of a Catalan peasant, entitled The Reaper, which he famously made for the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 World's Fair where it was exhibited alongside two other great protestations against the tragedy and injustice of the Spanish Civil war - Picasso's Guernica and Gonzalez's Montserrat - 'the Catalan peasant is a symbol of the strong, the independent, the resistant.'(Joan Miró, quoted in Joan Miró, exh. cat., London, 2011, p. 86)

In this work Miró's intuitive manner of working directly from prompts, given him by the innate nature of his materials, has led to the fluid depiction over a scumbled ground of two Catalan peasant figures with vast earthbound bodies and small shrunken heads standing arms raised against the sky. Set in a landscape both these spindly figures, one seemingly male, the other clearly female, appear to be remonstrating with a large and ominous black sun dominating the sky above them. As in other works from this time, such as Femme en ré volte or Femme fuyant l'incendie, the two fragile figures are presented as victims of vast elemental forces controlling their environment.

As Dupin has written of such works, 'all Miró was trying to do' was to 'get mankind back on its feet, to give man back his dignity and his powers, by dint of strenuous efforts and severe ordeals... In Miró there was no exploitation of suffering or delinquency, no complaisance for the monstrous or the cruel. He was carefully surveying the evil powers, measuring their length, breadth, depth and intensity, and recording it without trickery. He was merely the ultra-sensitive apparatus, the spiritual seismograph of contemporary disaster. And in the dejection and suffering which he in turn embodied, he was trying - but only in the domain in which he recognized his rights and his competence, in painting - to bring aid and comfort to mankind. He was on the side of nature, the side of the life principle itself.' Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, New York, 1993, p. 221)

An inscription written under the black sun in this work dedicated it to the English art critic and surrealist poet Ruthven Todd. It is likely that Todd first met Miró at the International Surrealist show held at Burlington House, London, in 1936. Ruthven Todd worked at the Zwemmer Gallery, London and was probably responsible for the Miró exhibition that was held there in May 1937.

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