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Audio: Joan Miro, Personnages dans la nuit
Joan Miro (1893-1983)
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Property from a Distinguished West Coast Collection
Joan Miro (1893-1983)

Personnages dans la nuit

Joan Miro (1893-1983)
Personnages dans la nuit
signed 'Miró' (lower right); signed again, dated and titled 'Joan Miró Personnages dans la nuit x Barcelona, 23-11-1942' (on the reverse)
charcoal, colored chalk and strawberry jam on paper
19½ x 25¼ in. (50 x 65 cm.)
Executed in Barcelona, 23 November 1942
Felix Landau Gallery, Los Angeles.
Stone collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above, circa 1950).
Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, January 1993.
M. Daniel and M. Gale, ed., Joan Miró, The Ladder of Escape, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 2011, p. 96, no. 70 (illustrated in color).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (on extended loan, 1959).
Sale Room Notice
ADOM (Association pour la défense de l'oeuvre de Joan Miró) has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

ADOM (Association pour la défense de l'oeuvre de Joan Miró) has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

The present work, Personnages dans la nuit, ranks among the finest of the works on paper executed over the course of 1942. Its mischievous inspiration plays out in the grotesque trio of figures who can be read both as stock characters from Miró's repertory or as stock characters of the more politically inspired dramatis personnae who populate his Barcelona series of lithographs from 1944.

Miró completed the twenty-third and last of his landmark series of gouaches on paper he had come to call the Constellations at his family home in Montroig, Catalonia, on 12 September 1941. He executed the present work during the following year, as he settled down into a new sequence of exploratory and experimental works executed in both Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona. This prevailing sprirt of experimentation is very evident in the present work with the playful addition of strawberry jam among the more usual roster of media used. Throughout the year Miró attempted to put behind him the anxieties and tribulations of the past two years, in which he and his family had undertaken a veritable odyssey to reach the safe haven of home, as Europe descended into darkness and hopelessness all around him.

Miró moved to Palma de Mallorca, in November 1941, a safe-haven where his wife Pilar's parents lived, and within a few weeks he commenced a new group of works on paper. Miró wrote to his friend E.C. Ricart on 15 February 1942: "I considered it convenient for me to spend some time here in Palma I spend almost all of my time working I see almost no one, and in this way escape without being engulfed by the terrible tragedy of the entire world" (quoted in C. Lanchner, Miró, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993, p. 336). Only two works that could be called easel paingings are recorded in Jacques Dupin and Ariane Lelong-Mainaud's catalogue raisonné for the year 1942, with only one further oil on canvas included for the following year. It was not until 1944 that Miró took up painting again on a more concerted basis.

Miró found that working on paper best suited his nomadic and "furtive" existence, and besides, canvas was hard to come by and expensive to purchase. Moreover, the visionary Constellations hadprovided Miró with a vast reservoir of visual imagery, and they had opened up to him a wide range of techniques that he needed to mull over and carry forward, without mechanically repeating the actual look of this soon-to-become-celebrated series, which were first exhibited in New York in 1945, a few months before the end of the war in Europe. Jacques Dupin has described this burst of renewed activity: "In 1942 [the Constellations] were followed by a large number of watercolors, gouaches and drawings, characterized by freedom of invention and a marvelous effortlessness. In this 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 Majorca mostespecially--was doubtless crucial. They are explorations undertaken with no preconceived idea--effervescent creations in which the artist perfected a vast repertory of forms, signs, and formulas, bringing into play all the materials and instruments compatible with paper. The object of all these explorations is to determine the relationship between drawing and the materials, the relationship between line and space (in Miró, Paris, 2004, pp. 257-260).

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