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

Peinture

Details
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Peinture
signed 'Miró' (lower right); signed again, dated and titled 'Miró. 1953 peinture.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
96 ½ x 49 ¼ in. (245.3 x 125.1 cm.)
Painted in 1953
Provenance
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Acquavella Modern Art, Reno (acquired from the above).
Private collection, Japan (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009.
Literature
J. Dupin, Miró, Cologne, 1961, p. 390, no. 808 (illustrated, p. 545).
J. Dupin, Miró, New York, 1962, p. 561, no. 808 (illustrated).
J. Dupin, Miró Firebird, Paris, 1998, p. 81 (illustrated in color).
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue raisonné. Paintings, 1942-1955, Paris, 2001, vol. III, p. 203, no. 929 (illustrated in color).
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 2012, p. 294.
Exhibited
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Miró: Recent Paintings, November-December 1953, no. 3 (illustrated in color).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Miró: Selected Paintings, March-August 1980, p. 85, no. 36 (illustrated in color).
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Miró in America, April-June 1982.
Kunsthaus Zürich and Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle, Joan Miró, November 1986-April 1987, no. 142 (illustrated in color).
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Joan Miró: A Retrospective, May-August 1987, p. 210, no. 123 (illustrated in color, p. 211).
Yokohama Museum of Art, Joan Miró, Centennial Exhibition: The Pierre Matisse Collection, January-March 1992, p. 108, no. 71 (illustrated in color).
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Joan Miró: Equilibri a l'espai, September-November 1997, p. 26, no. 2 (illustrated in color, p. 27).
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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Miró created this tall Peinture in 1953, during a phase in which his new work displayed–as Jacques Dupin described it–an “expansion tendency... Miró turned his back on the charms and refinements of his ‘elaborate’ style... Here he became more adventurous again, setting out once more to explore the unknown. Calling upon his powers for direct, uncompromising expressiveness, he achieved a kind of improvisation, at once grandiose and rigorous” (op. cit., 2012, p. 292).
It is for precisely these qualities that the early 1950s stand out as a peak in the evolution of Miró’s work during the first decade following the end of the Second World War. To his great joy and satisfaction, the artist moreover witnessed signs that his international reputation was growing by leaps and bounds, beyond any prior hope or expectation, and his work had a profound influence and impact on a new generation of contemporary painters.
Foreign travel catalyzed these developments; Miró made two revelatory trips to America. The first was the artist’s extended stay during February-October 1947 in New York, where he painted a mural for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati (Dupin, no. 817; Cincinnati Art Museum). The second lasted a week-and-a-half during June 1952, when he first viewed the Cincinnati mural in situ, and visited the destination of his second American commission, Peinture murale, which he completed in January 1951 and shipped from his Barcelona studio to Harvard University, Cambridge (Dupin, no. 893; The Museum of Modern Art, New York).
The powerful attraction that Miró’s work then held for the rising generation of vanguard American painters stemmed from the retrospective which James Johnson Sweeney had organized at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in late 1941–notwithstanding the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into the war, which occurred while the exhibition was on view. Miró’s paintings provided a compelling alternative to the various forms of geometric abstraction then in vogue, offering instead a freer and deeply intuitive conception of modernism.
“Miró’s dictum, quoted by Sweeney in his catalogue, that ‘painting or poetry is made as we make love, a total embrace, prudence thrown to the wind, nothing held back,’ provided a rationale for the intense abandon and total emotional involvement”–as Barbara Rose has written–“demanded by the group that included personalities as troubled and desperate as Pollock, Gorky and Rothko. They, like virtually every ambitious New York School artist, were profoundly affected, to an extent that altered the course of their art, by the 1941 Miró retrospective” (Miró in America, exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1982, pp. 19-20).
During his first American sojourn in 1947, Miró met some of these young Americans when their star was in the ascendant; four years later, he witnessed the subsequent triumph of their efforts. The cumulative effect of these experiences, as well as having viewed Pollock’s first solo exhibition in Paris during March 1951, was–reciprocally–no less transformative for Miró. The new art he had seen, he explained to Margit Rowell in 1970, ‘‘showed me a direction I wanted to take but which up to then remained at the stage of an unfulfilled desire. When I saw those paintings, I said to myself, ‘You can do it, too; go to it, you see, it is O.K.!’” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 279).
This liberating inspiration, which helped Miró to break with some accustomed aspects of the “elaborate style” he practiced during the late 1940s, is discernible in the present Peinture and other works of 1953. The key work of this year is the Peinture in The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (Dupin, no. 927). As Dupin pointed out, this canvas was the largest Miró had ever attempted “without special preparation, without preliminary sketches, relying solely on the impulse of the gesture. The background served to create a storm-tossed atmosphere, generating sufficient electricity to put the painter into a hypnotic state in which he was able to transmit directly onto the canvas a deposit of inner energies notable for their crude, raw, expressiveness” (op. cit., 2012, p. 292).
Even more illuminating in regard to the present picture, by comparison and contrast, is another Peinture of 1953, in a square format (Dupin, no. 928). “On a highly refined, misty gray background we see the elliptical mass of an enormous sun,” as Dupin described it, “of a powerful red, surrounded by a black haze like a nimbus... There is a sign in tremulous handwriting...[which] may suggest a reclining figure leaning dreamily on one elbow. There is no color save for the red of the sun and a tiny blue gleam that echoes it, giving us a measure of its intensity” (ibid.).
Dupin then turned to the present Peinture, especially imposing in its grandly vertical height. “The same intensity in simplicity is found in a painting where the sun has been replaced by the moon, a gigantic emerald crescent which stands out against a background mottled with ocher and earth colors. This time a purple gleam is kindled in the curve of the black graphism... I would interpret it as a seated woman with a wavy tapering torso ending in a pinpoint. But everyone’s interpretation is as good as mine; there is no one correct one. Miró’s suggestiveness goes beyond meaning, and our only certainty is that of the line, which is marvelously alive and scarcely traces a figure” (ibid.).
The oil washes in the background of the Guggenheim painting are thin and pale, creating a subdued but light-filled aura, as does the grisaille ground in the Tokyo canvas. The hot, churning colors in the tall Peinture generate an altogether more feverish environment, as if the atmosphere has been irradiated from within, emitting flashes of energy become light, solar flares, rendering all the more astonishing that green crescent of the moon, nearly bent into a bow, its color neither hot nor cool, but of some transcendent mystical hue.
“I work in a state of passion and excitement,” Miró explained in a 1959 interview with Yvonne Taillandier. “When I begin a painting, I am obeying a physical impulse, a necessity to begin. It’s like receiving a physical shock... Even more important than the painting itself is what it gives off, what it projects...a painting must give off sparks. It must give birth to a world” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., op. cit., 1986, pp. 249 and 251).
Fig. A Joan Miró, Peinture, 1953. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. BARCODE: nyrphxsj
Fig. B Joan Miró, Peinture, 1953. National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. BARCODE: nyrphxsi
Fig. C Mark Rothko, No. 9 {Multiform/Untitled}, 1948. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. BARCODE: nyrphxsh

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