There are a number of striking similarities between the artistic careers of Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, aside from the obvious facts that they were both Spanish, from roughly the same generation, who worked in France and who exerted enormous influence on 20th century culture. In the present context, the most notable reference point is their lifelong commitment to printmaking, which caused their paths to cross repeatedly as they shuttled between the great lithographic and intaglio workshops in Paris, and which was to result in a total graphic output in excess of two thousand prints each. Printmaking is as much a physical act as an artistic or aesthetic one, and any artist who sustains a continuous effort over many decades has to possess a real affinity for the tactile aspects of the pursuit. This was certainly true of both Spanish masters, but their approach was subtly but tellingly different. Picasso, in Fernand Mourlot’s famous phrase, ‘breathed through his fingers’. His relationship with the copper plate and the lithographic stone was akin to a wrestling match in which he sought to dominate the materials and the process. So strong was the creative impulse that on many occasions his printers had to race to keep up with the speed with which he worked on the plate and watch, dismayed, as he did precisely what they told him not to. Going against convention and succeeding was something Picasso loved to do. Miró on the other hand, descended from a long line of craftsmen, took a less confrontational line with his tools. According to Jacques Dupin ‘[Miró] was willing to listen to the tools and engage in a dialogue. He did not want to impose his will completely on them.’ (1) This collegiate, co-operational approach extended to the printers and studio assistants he worked with. Again in Dupin’s words ‘He loved to work with the artisans who assisted him. He depended on their knowledge and experience, and loved to work with them. He had a knack for listening to them, giving them the opportunity to create alongside him, in the true spirit of solidarity.’ (2)Picasso’s precocity with etching, producing La Suite des Saltimbanque (see lot 40) after the briefest of training seems to have been driven partly the restless curiosity that informed his whole career. He seemed perpetually impatient to leave his teachers behind as soon as they had imparted their knowledge. Miró's career, however, developed more in a series of close relationships with established printers, the first of which was Louis Marcoussis. Miró began his journey as a printmaker because of his love of poetry and a consequent search for a visual language which would allow him to ‘translate’ poetry into painting. Tristan Tzara, who Miró admired for his role in the Dada movement, was one of the first poets he met in Paris in 1921 and it was through Tzara that Miró met Louis Marcoussis. Marcoussis welcomed Miró to his studio in the Rue Hégésippe-Moreau and taught him drypoint and etching and Miró was to work there until the outbreak of the war. The twenty or so etchings prepared on Marcoussis’ presses (see lots 1-8) were printed with the help of Roger Lacourière, in his printshop in the Rue Foyatier. It was here that Miró would often run into Picasso, who during one of their chance encounters suggested the idea for Miró’s Rouge et Noire series (see lot 8), when he suggested the combination of two copper plates and two colors.The prints from 1938 are a testament to the painter’s fears and anxiety before the tragic civil war in Spain, the rise of fascism, and the Second World War. This anguish was only rarely treated as an explicit subject, rather it remained internalized, resulting in the ‘atrocious distortion of Miró’s signs, colors and personages.’ (3). The next significant development in Miró's graphic career came during his stay in Varengeville between 1939 and 1940, where his friend and neighbor, Georges Braque, had invited him. Braque suggested that Miró take up lithography again (after a brief flirtation with it in 1930) but this time using transfer paper – a variation of the technique often employed by Picasso and Matisse, and the only one used by Giacometti. Although his preparations were interrupted by the advance of German troops, he continued after a move to Barcelona, where; “In an old neighborhood...Miró discovered an astounding printer in a sparsely equipped, tiny studio. Fortunately, lithography is more a question of manpower and know-how than equipment. The young printer, Mirallas, proved to be an excellent artisan in full possession of his craft. He successfully transferred Miró’s works, and printed excellent proofs.” (4). The fifty prints in what became known as the Barcelona Suite (see lots 10-12) comprise Miró’s first lithographic masterpiece. They are an outpouring of Miró’s wounded, horrified conscience and came at a cross-roads of Miró’s pre-war cruel style and the freedom of inscription which he had recently conquered through the concentration and formal discipline of his Constellations paintings.Curiously, Picasso’s relationship with lithography followed a similar pattern - a brief flirtation (in the 1920s) followed by a more concerted effort (fifteen years later) - although in Picasso’s case it would more accurate to describe his four months at Mourlot in terms of total immersion. There can rarely have been a less auspicious context for a great encounter between artist and technique as there was in November 1945, when Picasso arrived at the atelier in Rue Chabrol. Paris was only beginning to recover from the occupation, and food and fuel were scarce, but the intensity of Picasso’s engagement in the process has become the stuff of legend, and produced one of the most significant bodies of work in a single medium in the last century. The rather straightforward graphic style of his first period undergoes a complete transformation, resulting in such bravura works as Le Crapaud (lot 49) and La Colombe (lot 52). Whilst Miró too was working at Mourlot during this period, the next important phase in his development as a printmaker came in 1947 when he travelled to New York for a commission. Whilst there he visited S.W. Hayter’s workshop Atelier 17. Hayter initiated Miró into a wholly different facet of printmaking – encouraging a spirit of experimentation and complexity in his work. It was to be another twenty years before Miró made the final development of his graphic career to produce the large color prints (see lots 19-39) that mark his mature style. As with previous significant developments in his printmaking, this final evolution came through working with a master printer - this time Robert Dutrou, who had served a long apprenticeship with Roger Lacouriere, before leaving to work as the principal intaglio printer for Aime Maeght. ‘Carborundum gave Miró what he had been looking for: large, powerful original engravings, or ‘engraving-paintings’ that might be hung on the wall, not stashed away in a folder...These are monumental engravings, not merely dimension-wise, but also by the sheer force of their traces and inscriptions, by their brilliance and depth, and by the volcanic splashes animating them.’ (5)If the 1960s were the decade of carborundum for Miró, for Picasso it was the relatively brief, brilliant investigation of the linocut, before the late intensity of the Series 347. Although first adopted by artists at the beginning of the century, and then taken up by the Grosvenor School in Britain in the 1930s, the linocut technique existed on the periphery until Picasso seized upon it in the late 1950s. He initially used it to create simple, striking posters for bullfights and ceramics exhibitions in Vallauris, but soon decided it was capable of much more. After much experimentation he began producing a series of large, bold designs, strikingly simple and impactful, such as the three Bacchanales (lots 55-57) and the monumental Portrait de Jacqueline de face I (lot 62). 1. Jacques Dupin, Miró, Flammarion, Paris, 2012, pp.407. 2. Dupin, ibid. pp.4073. Dupin, ibid. pp. 4094. Fernand Mourlot, quoted in Dupin, ibid., pp.4105. Dupin, ibid. pp.420JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
Daphnis et Chloé
JOAN MIRO (1893-1983) Daphnis et Chloé drypoint, on Arches paper, 1933, signed, dated '9.11.33', numbered '1er etat 1/1' and dedicated 'à mon ami Marcoussis affectueusement' a presumably unique proof before the plate was reduced at the left, not recorded in Dupin, engraved in Marcoussis' studio and printed at the Atelier Lacouriere, Paris, skinning in places in the left portion of the subject with associated touched in areas in the leg and arm of the left figure, soiling and tears in the margins Image: 11 x 13 ¾ in. (279 x 349 mm.) Sheet: 13 x 19 7/8 in. (330 x 505 mm.)
Gifted by Joan Miro to Louis Marcoussis, and thence by direct decent.
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