JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
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PROPERTY FROM A GENTLEMAN
JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)

Peinture (L'Etoile)

Details
JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
Peinture (L'Etoile)
signed and dated 'Miró 1927.' (lower center); signed and dated again 'Joan Miró 1927' (on the reverse)
oil on burlap
25 1⁄2 x 32 in. (65 x 81.1 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Provenance
Galerie Pierre, Paris.
René Gaffé, Brussels.
Roland Penrose, London (acquired from the above, July 1937).
Zwemmer Gallery, London (by 1937).
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 29 April 1964, lot 112.
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London (acquired at the above sale).
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York (acquired from the above).
Audrey and Billy Wilder, Los Angeles (acquired from the above, 28 November 1964); sale, Christie's, New York, 13 November 1989, lot 39.
Waddington Galleries, London.
Private collection, Chicago.
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris.
Private collection, France; sale, Christie's, London, 7 February 2005, lot 76.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
P. Viladas, "A Life in Pictures" in House and Garden, April 1989, p. 156 (illustrated in color in situ in the Wilder apartment, Los Angeles).
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue Raisonné. Paintings, 1908-1930, Paris, 1999, vol. I, p. 220, no. 301 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
London, Zwemmer Gallery, Selected early paintings and drawings by Joan Miró, May-June 1937, no. 12.
Santa Barbara, University of California Art Gallery, A Selections of Paintings, Drawings, Collages and Sculpture from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Billy Wilder, October-November 1966, p. 11, no. 34 (illustrated, p. 22).
Paris, Galerie Malingue, Maîtres Impressionnistes et Modernes, October-December 1990, no. 20 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Joan Miró: La naissance du monde, March-June 2004, p. 390, no. 117 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, p. 217).
Sale room notice
Please note the amended support, which can be accessed online:
oil on burlap

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Joan Miró painted Peinture (L'Etoile) in the early summer of 1927 as one in a series of sixteen canvases that he primed and suffused with a zinc-white oil ground. Together, these paintings comprise the final installment in a remarkable, unprecedented thread of works, begun in mid-1925, numbering more a hundred pictures in all, which Dupin called Miró’s “oneiric” or “dream” paintings. In these radically simplified compositions where lines, cipher-like forms and spectral shapes are suspended upon brushed, monochromatic grounds, Miró succeeded in liberating his art from Western pictorial conventions of illusionistic representation and resemblance. Their deceptive simplicity proved shocking to audiences in the 1920s, who had grown accustomed to expecting some measure of formal complexity in modern painting, and after almost a century they have retained their status and reputation as being among the most radical paintings in the artist’s entire oeuvre. Indeed, Miró's imagery has yielded up little of its teasingly enigmatic meaning over the years, and the austere, minimalist aesthetic of the dream paintings continues to surprise and confound viewers to this day.
These ground-breaking works first emerged in the immediate aftermath of the artist’s inaugural solo exhibition of paintings at the Galerie Pierre in June 1925, and represented a distinctive shift in Miró’s output at this time. Turning away from the densely packed compositions of paintings such as Carnaval d'Arlequin (Dupin, no. 115), which comprised a teeming inventory of personages and objects excerpted from daily life, the artist focused instead on a simplified aesthetic, creating diaphanous forms and otherworldly spaces plucked from the depths of his imagination. Symbolist and Surrealist poetry, the antics of Dada artists, the paintings of Paul Klee and, according to the artist himself, hallucinatory visions induced by hunger, were among the many and disparate stimuli that led to the invention of these paintings.
“I painted without premeditation, as if under the influence of a dream,” Miró recalled. “I combined reality and mystery in a space that had been set free. I owed this light-hearted atmosphere to the influence of Dada... Later a deepening sense of the marvelous led me to the notion of the fantastic. I was no longer subjected to dream-dictation, I created my dreams through my paintings... I escaped into the absolute of nature. I wanted my spots to seem to open to the magnetic appeal of the void. I was very interested in the void, in perfect emptiness. I put it into my pale and scumbled grounds, and my linear gestures on top were the signs of my dream progression” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, pp. 264-5).
Peinture (L'Etoile) was painted between May and June 1927, as Miró was holed-up in a new studio in the rue Tourlaque with the conscious aim of pushing the logic of his “dream paintings” to their most elemental and extreme. While he had executed many of his dream paintings on a blue ground, in other “oneiric” picture sets Miró washed-in backgrounds of earthen tones, which then evolved into a series of eighteen paintings executed in early 1927 in which he employed a restricted range of colors brushed directly on raw linen canvas. The paintings on a white ground, including Peinture (L’Etoile) mark the final stage of the dream paintings, and represent a gradual symbolic return from darkness to light, from night to day, a journey from the innermost world of the mind and spirit back to the world of the senses, from which the artist first set out. As if to enhance this impression he sometimes mixed powdered silver and gold—archetypal symbols of the sun and moon—into the constitution of the white ground or, as in Peinture (L'Etoile), for example, incorporated them into the surface of the painting.
Consisting essentially of only three elements; the white ground, a man/foot and a star, the painting expresses the mysterious union between man and ideal and between heaven and earth. As Miró’s friend the poet and critic Michel Leiris recalled, Miró could sum-up mankind using only the image of the sole of a foot (“Joan Miró,” in Documents, vol. 1, no. 5, Paris, 1929, pp. 264-6). It is a foot that, here in this work, is contrasted with a shooting star in the same way as in Miró's 1925 blue-ground painting of the head of a Catalan peasant. Such celestial symbols played a particularly important role in Miró’s oeuvre—his father was an amateur astronomer, and the artist himself enjoyed star-gazing, a fact that would shape his celebrated series of Constellations in 1940-1941. Through the elemental simplicity and graphic charm of Miró’s imagery, a poetic and surprisingly potent portrait of man and the cosmos is born.
Shortly after its creation, Peinture (L'Etoile) was purchased by Miró’s most enthusiastic early collector and patron, the journalist René Gaffé, who also owned Carnaval d'Arlequin, The Birth of the World (Dupin, no. 125), and, among many other early Mirós, Portrait de Mme K. (Dupin, no. 93) and Danseuse espagnole (Dupin, no. 94). Gaffé subsequently sold the painting to another of the artist’s early supporters, the British artist, writer, and historian Roland Penrose, who was a close friend to Miró and an early biographer for the artist. The painting also spent 25 years in the dynamic modernist collection of the celebrated German film director Billy Wilder and his wife Audrey, in whose home it hung alongside artworks by Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger and Jean Dubuffet, among others.

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