Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Property from a Private European Collection
Joan Miro (1893-1983)

Composition (Projet pour un mural de céramique destiné au Wilhelm-Hack-Museum de Ludwigshafen, Allemagne)

Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Composition (Projet pour un mural de céramique destiné au Wilhelm-Hack-Museum de Ludwigshafen, Allemagne)
oil, gouache, pencil and wax crayon on paper mounted on canvas
38 5/8 x 220 5/8 in. (98.2 x 560.5 cm.)
Painted in 1978
Estate of the artist.
José Artigas, Barcelona.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002.
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2012, p. 398.

Lot Essay

Jacques Dupin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Miró painted this preliminary maquette in 1978 for the colored and fired stoneware wall of the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany, executed in 1979 (Miró-Artigas, no. 436).

Four supreme modern masters--Miró, Picasso, Léger and Chagall--artists who built their lifetime careers and fame on the strength of their painting, actually turned to other media for the monumental public art they created late in their careers. The port of entry for each of these artists into the production of large outdoor decorations was the craft of making ceramics, a versatile medium that quickly suggested numerous potential applications to far more grandiose projects than tabletop vases and flatware. Picasso was the most prolific ceramicist of this group; the gigantic engraved concrete figures that Carl Nesjar created from Picasso's designs between 1962 and 1971may be regarded as the ultimate result of that moment in 1946 the artist began to make ceramics in the Madoura pottery works at Vallauris. Léger also began to work in ceramics during the late 1940s, and within the space of a few years created large ceramic reliefs, great polychrome sculptures based on ceramic models, huge mosaic wall decorations and stained glass windows. Chagall followed this path as well, creating a variety of ceramic works ranging from plates to figures, large murals and the great stained glass Jerusalem Windows.

Miró's first works in ceramic, created during 1941-1944, predate the efforts of all three other artists in this field, although it was not until the early 1960s that he began to employ ceramics to create extremely large sculptures, works which culminated in Femme et oiseau, 1981-1982, which measures 72 feet (22m) tall (M.-A., no. 409). The first of his great ceramic wall decorations was realized before the large sculptures--Miró, in collaboration with his master ceramicist Josep Artigas, in 1957 created the earthenware Mur du soleil and Mural de la lune for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (M.-A., nos. 424-425). "For the first time, Miró was exhibiting a work out of doors, in the city, in an architectural ensemble," Jacques Dupin wrote, "and we know that this had long been one of his most cherished ambitions" (op. cit., 2012, p. 396).

Ten more projects followed during the years 1960-1979, including commissions for Harvard University, Cambridge, 1960 (M.-A., no. 426); The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1967 (M.-A., no. 428); Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, 1968 (M.-A. no. 429); The Kunsthaus Zürich, 1972 (M.-A., no. 432); and the Palacio de Madrid, 1979 (M.-A., no. 435). Josep Artigas had been ill since 1970, and died in 1980. His son Joan Gardy Artigas continued working with Miró in the Artigas studio at Gallifa, near Barcelona.

The great wall of the Wilhelm-Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen was the largest surface Miró ever covered (measuring 32 feet, 9¾ inches by 180 feet, 5¼ inches [10 x 55m]). The colored and fired plaques were executed for this project on stoneware. The design Miró prepared in the present painting reflects the two chief influences on his work after 1950: the gestural and improvisatory character of post-war American abstract-expressionist painting, and the style and techniques of Japanese painting and calligraphy. Miró had been long aware of the affinities in his work with Japanese fine and decorative arts, especially while creating his ceramics. He travelled to Japan in 1966 and 1970; on the latter occasion he inaugurated the earthenware wall decoration he created for the Osaka International Exhibition (M.-A., no. 430). "These long paintings evoke Japanese writing," Miró stated. "That is because I feel deeply in harmony with the Japanese soul" (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 275).

In arriving at the design for the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum wall, Miró "took into account the work's dimensions and the viewer's perception of the work from a distance," Dupin explained. "This yielded a consciously charged, powerful composition, with strong colors, intricate forms and an accelerated rhythm: it is, in a sense, a panoramic vision, or a Miró-highway" (op. cit., 2012, p. 398).

(fig. 1) Joan Miró, Wall of the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, 1979. Photograph by Hans Peter Schaefer.

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