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

Le serpent glisse vers l’azur parsemé de flèches

JOAN MIRÓ (1893-1983)
Le serpent glisse vers l’azur parsemé de flèches
signed ‘Miró’ (lower right); signed again, dated and titled ‘Miró. 1954 LE SERPENT GLISSE VERS L'AZUR PARSEMÉ DE FLÊCHES' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
10 ¾ x 19 ¾ in. (27.5 x 50.2 cm.)
Painted in 1954
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
(probably) Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, circa 1960.
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1961, p. 549, no. 858 (illustrated).
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings, 1942-1955, Paris, 2001, vol. III, p. 239, no. 977 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

"You must have the greatest respect for the material. That is the starting point. It determines the work. It commands it." – Joan Miró

"Miró speaks a language that the world understands, but that no one can learn, for it has no direct reference to external appearances: it is a language spoken only by its inventor, that only the artist who originated it can speak meaningfully." – Jacques Dupin

Combining a lyrical sense of poetry with a bold, gestural painterly quality, Le serpent glisse vers l’azur parsemé de flèches encapsulates the intrinsic spontaneity of Miró’s mature artistic style. Just a few short years before embarking upon this work, Miró had outlined the ways in which his artistic processes had shifted and changed over the years. The power of the subconscious, which had been the primary source of inspiration during his early career, had gradually been replaced by a fascination with the suggestive nature of the very materials of his art making—the warp and weft of the canvas, the textures of his paints, the energy in the sweep of a brush. Whereas the artist’s earlier works had evolved from hallucinations, subsequently filtered and refined through sketches and meticulous drawings before being committed to canvas, now spontaneity and direct interaction with the materials themselves provided the creative impetus for his painterly explorations. “What is more interesting to me today is the material I am working with,” Miró explained. “It supplies the shock which suggests the form just as cracks in a wall suggested shapes to Leonardo…I start a canvas without a thought of what it may eventually become” (quoted in J.J. Sweeney, “Joan Miró: Comment and Interview” in Partisan Review, vol. 15, no. 2, February 1948; reproduced in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 209).
The raw, elemental paintings that emerged from these explorations and meditations on material are fundamentally about the act of painting itself, capturing Miró’s direct expression of creativity on canvas in its purest form. Margit Rowell, describing the sense of immediacy and urgency inherent in these works, has called them “indexes of energy rather than icons of meaning…invested with the rhythms of the artist’s inner necessity to make a primary statement of being” (M. Rowell, Miró, New York, 1970, p. 18). The present work encapsulates this aspect of Miró’s oeuvre, its language of signs and symbols reduced to a secondary role within the composition, as the artist delves into the properties of his materials and allows them to take center stage. Indeed, though executed in oil on canvas, Miró achieves the impression that a variety of other media are employed in the painting’s construction, introducing varying painterly effects and textures to the composition, exploring different densities and finish within his paints, and creating subtle gradations of color which enliven the canvas and add a sense of depth to the scene.
The title of the present work is particularly evocative, suggesting a whimsical narrative in which a snake slithers towards a blue sky, led by arrows pointing in the direction of the sky. As Miró explained, these poetic titles emerged from his paintings in the midst of their creation: “I begin my paintings because something jolts me away from reality…I need a point of departure…This form gives birth to a series of things…When I give it a title, it becomes even more alive. I find my titles in the process of working, as one thing leads to another on my canvas. When I have found the title, I live in its atmosphere. The title then becomes completely real for me, in the same way that a model, a reclining woman, for example, can become real for another painter. For me, the title is a very precise reality” (quoted in Y. Taillandier, “I Work Like a Gardener” in XXe Siècle, 15 February 1959, reproduced in M. Rowell, op. cit., p. 249).
The present work was part of an extensive collection of over 100 works formed throughout the 1950s and 60s. The collection contained works by the towering figures of 20th century art such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Max Ernst, among others. Often acquired either directly from the artists with whom the collector, a German émigré to the US in the 1930s, shared personal friendships, or through their primary dealers such as Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Aimé Maeght, historic figures in their own right.

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