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

Femme attrapant un oiseau nocturne

Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Femme attrapant un oiseau nocturne
signed 'Miró' (lower right); titled and dated 'Femme attrapant un oiseau nocturne 1/VIII./70' (on the reverse)
oil, gouache and pencil on handmade paper
53½ x 23 in. (136 x 58.4 cm.)
Painted on 1 August 1970
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 1974.

Lot Essay

A photo-certificate from Jacques Dupin dated Paris, 27 February 2001 accompanies this painting.

Miró's move to Palma, Mallorca had a great impact on his later works. In 1956, he built the large studio he had always dreamed of on the terraced hills above the beach of Calamayor. Working in this new space, Miró's brushstrokes became more robustly gestural and graffiti-like, with vibrant splashes of color. "The heavy graphism, most often traced in an unbroken flow of black paint, does not repudiate Miró's world of forms, but simplifies it by greater vehemence of gesture; it is as though the painter were in a hurry to get finished. When we do, nonetheless, find a bird or a woman, the result is no longer an exploitation of fantastic, graceful or sensual possibilities for our enjoyment, but the stark presence of the figure, its energy liberated by the suspension of form and delayed realization of its will to exist" (J. Dupin, Joan Miró Life and Work, New York, 1962, p. 479).

Miró retained the essential elements of his early personal mythology even into his late years. The female figure personifies the earth and fertility; the star is emblematic of the larger cosmos, and the bird is an intermediary between the two realms. Femme attrapant un oiseau nocturne possesses the heavy black lines introduced in the early 1960's and incorporates choreographed bursts of color that accent and highlight the elements of the composition. The artist emphasizes the curves of the female body in the upper section of the composition. She glares at the viewer while standing above a cage, which traps the bird beneath her. The bird is emblematically reduced to two flaming red curves and a single white line shooting up through the night sky towards the woman above. The bird is the messenger of desire and passion, whose flight is blocked and contained by the grid-like lines of the cage. Although the bird is her captive, the cage also denies her access to it. The resultant frustration is clearly evident in the woman's coiled expression. The cage confounds the union of earthly and aerial elements by not allowing the bird to enter the larger cosmos.

This continuous exploration of the unknown, along with attempts to break with previous styles, lead to Miro's experimentation with a variety of new materials. The present work is painted on handmade paper in a hanging scroll-like manner, which offers firm support to the thick and heavy application of paint. "He was fascinated and inspired by all kinds of papers, and these served him as virtual 'Readymades' and objets trouvés in the Dadaist and Surrealist sense. He might light upon some expensive rice paper or simply some discarded scrap, a piece of corrugated cardboard or packing paper, old envelopes or newspapers, or one of those round pieces of cardboard bakers under cakes. This most spiritual artist has a distinctly sensual relationship with his materials" (W. Schmalenbach, "Drawings of the Late Years," Joan Miró: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1987, p. 51 ).


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