JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
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JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
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JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)

Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil

JOAN MIRO (1893-1983)
Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil
signed ‘Miró’ (lower left); signed again, dated and titled ‘Miró. 6⁄2/63 Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil’ (on the reverse)
oil, gouache and pastel on board
41 1⁄8 x 29 1⁄4 in. (104.3 x 74.3 cm.)
Painted on 6 February 1963
Galerie Maeght, Paris.
Vittorio de Sica, Paris (acquired from the above, 1966).
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above, 1973); sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 February 2013, lot 40.
Private collection, Europe (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
G. Diehl, Miró, Paris, 1974, p. 78 (illustrated in color).
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró: Catalogue Raisonné, Paintings, Paris, 2002, vol. IV, p. 37, no. 1034 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Miró: Cartons, May 1965, no. 20.
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Miró: Cartones, 1959-1965, October-November 1965, no. 29 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

“Color comes into these works in intense spots and sudden flickers; there is no effort to achieve refined tones. It brings light and rhythm, is revelatory by dint of violent contrasts, plays an autonomous part, and only rarely serves to accentuate a detail of a figure, to stress an eye or the line of a mouth… So strong is the sensation of life conveyed by this animation of pigment, these plays of brushwork and spots, these conflagrations of color. And yet the beings, phantoms, and images take second place to the pure manifestation of painting as such, resolved to reveal itself without recourse to figuration… These paintings are traps into which everything is to be gained by falling” (J. Dupin, Joan Miró, Life and Work, New York, 1962, p. 480). So Jacques Dupin described the series of “Cartones” that Joan Miró painted between 1959 and 1965, to which Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil belongs.
Defined by their large scale, instinctive, impassioned handling, and bold colors, this group began when Miró returned to painting after a five-year hiatus. With his new and capacious studio in Palma de Mallorca, the artist had been able to contemplate his life’s work, as well as focus on other media, producing engravings and ceramics. When he returned to painting, he was reinvigorated and reinspired. “I work in a state of passion and excitement,” he described of this time. “When I begin a painting, I am obeying a physical impulse, a necessity to begin. It’s like receiving a physical shock” (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 249).
Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil embodies this newfound artistic liberation. Featuring Miró’s signature motifs—a figure and a bird—in this work, the artist has depicted these elements with sweeping strokes of abstract color. The large red orb of the sun hangs over the scene, providing a contrast with the powdery white accretions and gestural black lines that dominate the composition.
This handling, as well as the large scale and instinctive abstraction of this work reflects the dialogue Miró had with contemporary painting at this time. There is a visual link between the expansive format and expressive synthesis of pictorial signs of Personnages et oiseaux devant le soleil and the recent traditions of Abstract Expressionism. Miró made his initial contact with American painting during his first trip to the United States in 1947. In addition to renewing his friendships with artists who had emigrated there before and during the Second World War, such as Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy, Miró met many of the younger Americans who were making their reputations, including Jackson Pollock. Miró’s second trip to America in 1959, on the occasion of his retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, came at the crucial moment of his career when he had ceased painting. The work of the now established New York artists had a profound effect on him. In Miró’s words, American painting, “showed me a direction I wanted to take but which up to then had remained at the stage of an unfulfilled desire. When I saw these paintings, I said to myself, you can do it, too: go to it, you see, it is O.K.! You must remember that I grew up in the school of Paris. That was hard to break away from” (quoted in M. Rowell, op. cit., 1987, p. 279). “It showed me the liberties we can take, and how far we could go, beyond the limits,” he explained to Margit Rowell. “In a sense, it freed me” (quoted in J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1993, p. 303).
After Miró returned to Europe, paintings again began to flow from his studio. “These paintings disclose affinities—which Miró did not in the least attempt to deny—with the investigations of a new generation of painters. In these new realms, Miró was in fact, more so than any other painter, an innovator. Many of these painters, notably Robert Motherwell and Pollock, acknowledged their debt to Miró who, in turn, displayed lively interest in their work and never missed an opportunity to encourage and support them” (ibid., p. 304).

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