Joan Miró (1893-1983)
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Please note for tax purposes, including potential … Read more Property from a Los Angeles Collection
Joan Miró (1893-1983)

La caresse d'un oiseau

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
La caresse d'un oiseau
signed and numbered ‘Miró 1/4’ (on the lower right of the green element); inscribed with foundry mark ‘Susse Fondeur Paris’ (on the back of the base)
painted bronze
Height: 122 3/8 in. (310.8 cm.)
Conceived in 1967 and cast in the artist's lifetime
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Maguire Properties, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1980.
J.J. Sweeney, Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1970, p. 220 (another cast illustrated in color; titled Woman).
M. Tapié, Joan Miró, Milan, 1970, p. 178 (another cast illustrated).
A. Jouffroy and J. Teixidor, Miró: Sculptures, Paris, 1980, p. 84, no. 86 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 85).
W. Erben, Joan Miró: The Man and His Work, Cologne, 1988, p. 181 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 180).
R.M. Malet, ed., Obra de Joan Miró: Dibuixos, pintura, escultura, ceràmica, tèxtils, Barcelona, 1988, p. 396, no. 1468 (another cast illustrated; another cast illustrated in color, p. 397).
P. Gimferrer, The Roots of Miró, New York, 1993, pp. 291 and 400, no. 1171 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 291, fig. 559).
J. Punyet Miró and G. Lolivier-Rahola, Joan Miró: Le peintre aux étoiles, Paris, 1993, p. 86 (another cast illustrated in color; dated 1967-1968).
B. Catoir, Miró on Mallorca, New York, 1995, pp. 67 and 83 (other casts illustrated in color).
M. Calvesi, G. Mori, G. Gatt, R. Lubar, C. Green and G. Cortenova, Los impresionistas y los creadores de la pintura moderna: De Chirico, Ernst, Miró, Magritte, Barcelona, 2000, p. 191 (another cast illustrated in color; titled Mujer que huye).
J. Dupin, Miró, Barcelona, 2004, p. 360, no. 388 (another cast illustrated in color).
E.F. Miró and P.O. Chapel, Joan Miró: Sculptures, Catalogue raisonné, 1928-1982, Paris, 2006, pp. 116-117, no. 105 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 117).
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2012, p. 360 (another cast illustrated in color, fig. 388).
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Lot Essay

La caresse d’un oiseau, with its totemic stance and grand scale, ranks among the most ambitious and successful of the painted bronzes Miró created from found objects in his fertile later years. Counting among the largest of his painted sculptures, its joyous palette of primary colors speaks to the irrepressible joie de vivre of the artist’s maturity. As the British collector Roland Penrose commented, “The literal fusion of sculpture and painting allows Miró to use the primary colors which are significant in his painting and to gain three-dimensional effects in which paint is no longer an illusory medium evoking depth on a flat surface but part of a solid object which can be touched and which can contain space as well as occupy it. The senses of sight and touch, which he has so often combined in the illusions created by his paintings and collages, here unite, and Miró exploits the possibilities offered with great skill...The bewildering success of these marriages of improbable materials is the result of Miró’s ability to make use of anything that is at his disposal” (Miró, New York, 1970, p. 145).
Miró first found his bearings as a sculptor in the solitary years of the Second World War, embracing the culture of peasant craft in rural Catalunya and Mallorca as a source for a new and vital approach to sculpture rooted in the world of objects. In notebooks from this time, Miró anticipated a new engagement with sculpture, writing: “When sculpting, start from the objects I collect, just as I make use of the stains on paper and imperfections in a canvas–do this here in the country in a way that is really alive, in touch with the elements of it like a collage of various elements...that is the only thing–this magic spark–that counts in art” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, pp. 175 and 191). By the late 1960s, when the present work was conceived, his sculptures had become fully three-dimensional collages, “My collages, today, are my sculptures,” Miró declared in 1977–and in these colorfully painted bronzes first conceived a decade earlier he raises his gift of metamorphosis to new heights (quoted in W. Jeffett, “The Shape of Color: Joan Miró’s Painted Sculpture,” exh. cat., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 33).
These later sculptures reflect retrospectively on Miró’s oeuvre, invoking both the playful, risk-taking attitude of the Surrealist 1930s and the telluric nationalism more characteristic of his work upon his return to Spain. “To paint, to sculpt, to etch, is maybe to give form to a myth,” Miró reflected in 1974. “If I frequently integrate the objects as they are, with raw materials, it is not to obtain a plastic effect but by necessity...I need to walk on my earth, to live among my own, because everything that is popular is necessary for my work” (quoted in ibid., p. 21).
The "Assemblage-Sculptures", as Jacques Dupin called them, were composed of different assortments of found objects, as exemplified by the array of both natural and man-made objects that constituted La caresse d’un oiseau before it was cast in bronze. The elements of La caresse d’un oiseau would have been found in his studio and the surrounding countryside where he would go for walks and often happen upon objects that he would later incorporate into his works. Dupin accompanied Miró on many of the daily walks the artist took to look for objects, and recalls that his selection process was far from arbitrary, "Seizing a crushed old tin was for him an important act, a serious task. He was convinced that whatever his foot might stumble over on the edge of a path could very well overwhelm our world" (J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1993, p. 374). “When I go for a stroll, I don’t search for things like one searches for mushrooms”, Miró stated when explaining how he chose the pieces that he would later use in his work, “There is a force–clack!–that makes me bend my head downward, a magnetic force” (quoted in W. Jeffett, exh. cat., op.cit., Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 34).
La caresse d’un oiseau and the majority of the other works of the series of painted sculptures of the late 1960s take women as their subject, conveying femininity with a playful, humorous and poetic approach. Joan Punyet Miró describes the various elements that came together to make the present sculpture: “La caresse d’un oiseau, a daring sculptural assemblage formed by an ironing board, the shell of a sea tortoise, a toilet seat, a donkey’s straw hat, and a stone surmounted by a ceramic moon, pays homage to the magic of the fortuitous. I would never have suspected that such diverse properties could result in so bold a monument to the grace of the accidental. Miró, in a deep state of trance, follows the energy flow of suggestion to link objects from the Mediterranean coast. The Catalan quality of this sculpture intensifies when one notes, for example, something as every day as the straw hat a farmer would put on his donkey’s head to protect it from sunstroke in the hot summer months…the donkey’s hat becomes the eyes and the nose of the figure caressed by a blue bird" (ibid, pp. 16 and 18).
The feminine and sexual qualities of the present sculpture—represented through the triangular outhouse seat and tortoise shell—are emphasized through the artists use of the bright red paint signifying passion. Further, Miró capitalizes on the circular void in the outhouse seat to allow the viewer to consider both the form before them along with the vista seen through the opening. Miró typically assigned generic titles to his sculptures such as Personnage, Oiseau, Femme. William Jeffett explains that “In the painted bronzes the poetic titles are in most cases among the most elaborate and specific, and they reflect transformations of Miró’s thinking of the compositional arrangements….Poetic titles such as La caresse d’un oiseau…point to a transformation of objects into figures” (W. Jeffett, ibid, p. 29). “All the sculptures, in one way or another, seem to express the fantasy of matter becoming animate...But they do it in such a way that not even the most timid child would be frightened. These monsters are friendly, or at the most burlesquely frightening like the Meanies in the Beatles cartoon film, something to giggle about rather than cry over, an attempt, perhaps, on Miró’s part to laugh us out of our bad dreams” (quoted in ibid, p. 80).

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