JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
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JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)

Personnage, oiseau, étoiles

JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
Personnage, oiseau, étoiles
signed 'Miró' (lower left); signed again, dated, titled and inscribed 'Joan Miró Personnage, oiseau, étoiles, Barcelone; 7-1-1943' (on the reverse)
pastel and pencil on paper
26 3⁄8 x 20 3⁄8 in. (67 x 51.7 cm.)
Drawn in Barcelona on 7 January 1943
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist).
Donald Morris Gallery, Inc., Detroit (acquired from the above).
Dr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Gosman, Toledo, Ohio (acquired from the above, 1965); sale, Christie's, New York, 10 November 1982, lot 7.
Donald Morris Gallery, Inc., Detroit (acquired at the above sale).
Maurice and Margo Cohen, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (acquired from the above, November 1982, until May 1999).
Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 9 November 1999, lot 444.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 May 2009, lot 29.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue Raisonné, Drawings, 1938-1959, Paris, 2010, vol. II, p. 132, no. 1048 (illustrated in color).
Detroit, Donald Morris Gallery, Inc., Joan Miró: Watercolor and Gouache, February-March 1965, no. 17 (illustrated).
The Art Gallery of the University of Pittsburgh, Forty-Five Paintings from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Gosman of Toledo, Ohio, September-October 1969, no. 35 (illustrated).
Madison, University of Wisconsin, Elvehjem Art Center, 19th and 20th Century Art from Collections of Alumni and Friends, September-November 1970, p. 80, no. 89 (illustrated).
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Contemporary Art: The Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Gosman, September-October 1972, p. 19, no. 34 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Femme, oiseau, étoiles was executed in 1943 during a moment of calm for Miró. The artist had fled France in June 1940 to escape the advance of invading German armies and arrived the following month in Palma de Mallorca, where he would stay with his wife Pilar’s family. Having spent the previous five years in exile, Mallorca was far enough from the seat of authority in Madrid to allow the artist to live in Spain without attracting attention. Miró's stay in Mallorca, which lasted until mid-1942, proved to be a significant stage in the development of his work. Here he completed the last of his celebrated Constellations. He soon turned away from the dense concentration of forms and signs that characterize these works, and began to work in a looser, more improvisatory manner, "characterized by a freedom of invention and a marvelous effortlessness. In the new evolution of his art, which was to end in the creation of his definitive style, renewed contact with Spain after five years of absence—with Mallorca most especially—was doubtless crucial" (J. Dupin, Miró, New York, 1962, p. 369).
In early 1943, Miró returned to his home in Barcelona once it had seemed safe to return to mainland Spain. He set up a large studio at 4 Passage del Credit, where he was born and grew up. Almost all the works created during this period are variations on a single theme, the symbolic relationship between woman, bird and star. The human figure appears as a generalized personage. Whatever their apparent gender, these figures stand for an earthy human presence, sometimes with tragic connotations, or more frequently with comic foibles, "as they clown around, run their foolish errands, play their whimsical or mysterious games" (ibid., p. 369).
His works from 1943 are profoundly different from his previous output, in particular the series of Constellations, which were densely packed personal mythologies that intermingled a childlike innocence with the artist’s fraught tensions. In contrast to the frenetic surfaces of the earlier works, Miró reclaims negative space in Femme, oiseau, étoiles. There is, in the absence of clutter, a sense of tranquility belied by a sense of menace created by the strange head and omnipresent, all-seeing eyes deposited throughout the composition. The main figure retains the youthful appearance of the characters from Miró’s highly structured personal mythology. However, here the innocence of other works is replaced by a sense of brutality emphasized by the sheer bulk of the figure’s head.
In Femme, oiseau, étoiles, the actual process of creation has changed—where the Constellations were controlled and meticulous exorcisms of Miró's wartime woes, here the artist has returned to his interest in a more spontaneous means of execution. Miró himself explained of this time in his career: “Now I worked with the least possible control” (quoted in R. Penrose, Miró, London, 1995, p. 108). This was a stark contrast to his earlier works, as the process of exorcism took a new form. Miró added a physicality to the process of drawing that brought a freshness and expressive power to his works of this period. He breathed new life into his own personalized iconography, which had become increasingly rigid and controlled in his previous works. In the present work, the same whimsical, arcane symbols—birds, stars and childlike depictions of people, poetic ephemera from his own memories and imagination—are revitalized, an effect heightened by the central figure's domination of the composition. The reduction of the number of elements and their new scale in the composition makes the image more personal, as Miró introduces the viewer to a figment of his memory. The intricacy and pattern of the Constellations has been eschewed in Femme, oiseau, étoiles in favor of a simple, striking icon.

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