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Joan Miró (1893-1983)
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Joan Miró (1893-1983)

L'Etoile se lève, les oiseaux s'envolent, les personnages dansent

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
L'Etoile se lève, les oiseaux s'envolent, les personnages dansent
signed 'Miró' (lower right); signed, dated and inscribed 'Miró. 1954 L'ETOILE SE LEVE, LES OISEAUX S'ENVOLENT, LES PERSONNAGES DANSENT' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
21 1/4 x 25 5/8 in. (54 x 65 cm.)
Painted in 1954
Galerie Maeght, Paris, by 1956.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no.1040).
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, by 1972.
J. Prévert & G. Ribemont-Dessaignes, Joan Miró, Paris, 1956, p. 191 (illustrated).
E. Huttinger & A. Scherz, Miró, Bern, 1957, no. 48.
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1962, no. 856, p. 565 (illustrated).
J. Dupin & A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné, Paintings, vol. III, 1942-1955, Paris, 2001, no. 974, p. 238 (illustrated).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Joan Miró, January - February 1956, no. 68 (illustrated).
Basel, Kunsthalle, Joan Miró, March - April 1956, no. 83.
Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Miró, October 1972, no. 11.
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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.

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Antoine Lebouteiller
Antoine Lebouteiller

Lot Essay

Executed in 1954, L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent dates from the startling crescendo in Joan Miró’s Post-war painting, after which he abandoned it for several years while he focussed instead on ceramics. With a title evoking a festive beginning of night - ‘The star rises, the birds fly away, the figures dance’ – the picture depicts an explosion of colours and characters, in stark contrast with the white background which they populate. On the right it is possible to recognise a figure which started to appear in Miró’s works in the 1950s: a round head, whose beak here develops into the tail and wing of a bird. Next to it, two figures, vaguely human in appearance, swing their bodies amid bright stars of colours. Formally balanced, L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent conveys the spontaneity and carefree expression of a child’s drawing, immediate in its communication of joy, plenitude and magic, while also demonstrating Miró’s mastery of his medium.

Although executed in oil on canvas, L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent evokes other media in its texture and effects, underlying the experimental approach that would more and more characterise Miró’s relationship to painting in his later work. Over a heavily primed canvas, Miró explored various densities of paint, alternating an aqueous mix with more condensed oil colours. These responded to the impermeable surface of the white canvas in different ways, combining on the surface layers of transparent, watercolour-like paint with opaque brushstrokes and dots. The effect is delicate, seemingly accidental yet charmingly seducing. Because of this technique, the work acquires a graphic quality which seems to mimic the soft effects of lithography. During 1953 – the year before he executed L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent – Miró had indeed dedicated much of his time to working on lithographs and engravings, exploring the media through a vast body of works. This recent experience may have prompted Miró to return to painting with a new approach. The innovative range of techniques apparent in L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent is testament to how Miró started to explore a great variety of media in the 1950s - including ceramics, lithography and engravings - fostering an inter-pollination between these different means of expression, thus re-invigorating his own pictorial language.

Jacques Dupin, Miró’s friend and the authoritative scholar of his work, singled out pictures such as L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent as characteristic of his output in 1954. They conveyed Miró’s intention to attack the canvas on the ‘spur of the moment’, to explore direct, unpremeditated painting and to re-establish a certain naïve genuineness in his work. ‘These works of 1954 form a homogenous group characterised by a direct expressively clumsy style, and frequent use of dotted lines and single dots. The dots or small disks produced effects of nocturnal light, and help to scatter the colours’ (J. Dupin, Joan Miró, Paris, 2012, p. 301). Dupin continues, noticing the particularly elaborate use of dots in L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent: ‘In some paintings the dots of color, heavier or more numerous than in the preceding ones, for instance, in The Star Rises…, are regularly disposed around the figures and signs like nail-heads studding a surface’ (J. Dupin, ibid., p. 301). Continuing to evolve his pictorial language of signs and symbols, in 1954 Miró accentuated the spontaneous, childlike execution of his works: ‘an attempt, as it were, to approximate the state of innocence requisite to coming upon some primitive treasure-trove’ (J. Dupin, ibid., p. 301).

Enigmatic in its meaning and poetic in its effect, the picture’s title L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent is an example of Miró’s characteristic ‘poem-titles’, which had begun to appear next to his work as early as 1931, acquiring all their suggestive force in 1938. Through these free-flowing lines of words, Miró added an ancillary presence to his pictures. Miró’s paintings are rarely direct responses to these titles and, likewise, these titles seldom offer an explanation to the images. Instead, verses and images work in parallel in similar ways, both unexpectedly pairing together words and signs in the pursuit of a common, poetic ambition. ‘I make no distinction between poetry and painting’, Miró affirmed (J. Dupin, ibid., p. 431). In L’Étoile se lève, les oiseaux s’envolent, les personnages dansent, the title seems to provide a sense of atmosphere, a symbolic context for the painting to inhabit. Stars, birds and ‘personnages’ are recurrent themes in Miró’s art; here, the title unites them in a moment of unanimous energy and lively communion.

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