'In the same spirit, Miró made a large number of pencil and charcoal drawings, occasionally touched up with watercolour. These ... are related to children's drawings by their naivet and seeming lack of technique, but the marvelous sureness of line is wholly Mirós. They are deliberately limited as to their expressiveness: better yet, they have been broken off at the point where inner disquiet or unconscious revelations begin to appear. This accounts for the understatement, for the unfilled gaps in the artist's graphisms, the dotted lines, the dispersion of details, and the very palpable search for what might be called 'expressive blunders, some of the drawings are of erotic inspiration, but not alarmingly so: this is an untroubled, rustic kind of eroticism, an outpouring of nature, a flowering of life' (Jacques Dupin, Miró, New York, 1993, p. 110).
This untitled picture is one of an outstanding series of works made in 1924 at a time when Miró's art was making its first dramatic leaps into a new simplified and strongly poetic realm of pictorial expression. As Pablo Picasso was to remark to Miró after seeing one of the Catalan artist's groundbreaking works at the time, 'After me, you are the one who is opening a new door!' (Pablo Picasso, quoted in Joan Miró 'Memories of the Rue Blomet', Margit Rowell ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 100.) Demarcated throughout the year by such landmark works as The Hunter 1923-4 (Museum of Modern Art New York), Spanish Dancer, Portrait of Mme K and The Harlequin's Carnival 1924-5 (Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo N.Y.), 1924 was a defining year for Miró in which he feverishly pursued an ever more radical and shocking art of simplification.
As he was to explain to Michel Leiris from his summer residence in Montroig at the time that he was working on Sans titre, Miró was now following a painterly path that was distinctly anti-painterly and against all conventional sense of 'peinture'. Forms and figures were reduced to mere ciphers, lyrical lines and grid-like progressions or dots, now set against a usually bleak or empty pale ground. Indeed such was the reductive linearity of his work that several of his 'paintings' such as Spanish Dancer and Portrait of Mme K had remained mere drawings. It was a pictorial direction that meant 'more or less a total destruction of all that I left behind last summer and thought I would go back to', Miró wrote. Everything is 'still too real!' he lamented, 'I am freeing myself of all pictorial convention (that poison!)... (and)... noticed as I put away merely drawn canvases - or, at any rate, lightly coloured ones - next to painted ones that the former affected the mind less directly; the intromission of stimulating materials (colours), though stripped of any pictorial meaning, jostled your blood and the high sensation that clawed your soul was spoiled. You already know the pictorial process: 1. Pure line: 2. Pure colours: 3. The nuances charm and music of colours. The end point of degeneration. My latest canvases I conceived as if thunderstruck, totally disengaged from the external world (from the world of men who have eyes in this recess beneath their forehead)...This is hardly painting, but I really don't give a damn.' (Joan Miró 'Letter to Michel Leiris', Montroig, 10 August 1924, in Joan Miró, 1917-34, exh. cat. Paris, 2004, p. 316)
Created in Montroig in September 1924, Sans titre is a work that relates strongly to several of Miró's major paintings of this period, most notably perhaps The Family now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Harlequin's Carnival. Comprising solely of a mustachioed male figure in a top hat and an erect penis that is shown ejaculating into the leaf-like vagina of a large leaping woman, the work, like the large-scale painting Maternité which Miró was also working on at this time, is a seemingly bawdy and humorous take on sex and human fertility. With the forms reduced to mere ciphers or glyphs of what they purport to represent, the picture is part child's drawing, part graffiti-like image and part whimsical poetry full of linear grace, lyrical charm and an irresistibly organic sense of the joy of creativity, (both artistic and sexual).
Miró's pursuit of an ever more reductive and simplified use of form, colour and line at this time owed much to contemporary influences upon him from the many avant-garde encounters he had had in Paris earlier in the year. From the work of Paul Klee which he and André Masson had first discovered in a series of reproductions in a book shop on the boulevard Raspail, to the profound influence of the Surrealists with whom Miró was coming to associate, Miró's deliberate assault on the conventions of painting at this time also owed much to the poetic sensibilities expressed by these artists and writers. As Miró recalled of these new encounters, it was 'the poets Masson introduced me to (who) interested me more than the painters I had met in Paris. I was carried away by the new ideas they brought and especially the poetry they discussed. I gorged myself on it all night long - poetry principally in the tradition of Jarry's Surmle' (Joan Miró, 'Interview with James Johnson Sweeney' in Partisan Review New York, Feb.1948, reproduced in Margit Rowell, ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987).
As Sans titre reveals, it was essentially the humorous, the provocative and the apparently childlike and nonsensical qualities inherent within such work that drove the early development of Miró's new poetics of form. Following sketches drawn from hallucinatory images that he dreamed, (often due to hunger) Miró's carefully planned graphic progression slowly came to reject all but primary colour, and employ nothing but an eloquent fluid line delineating a crystallized glyph-like form conveying nothing but the essence of the thing it represented. All other extraneous detail was removed so that the path of his line and the painterly mark became also their own signifiers. While much of the source of this inspiration may have derived from Paris, from Miró's frustration with the work of other painters he had seen there and from the Surrealists' aim of charting the exciting unknown realm of intuitive and unconscious creativity, the well-spring of Miró's imagery almost always lay rooted in the landscape and his childhood memories of life growing up in Montroig.
Something of this innately rural or rustic sense of simplicity and joyous love of nature is also evident in this deliberately playful and provocative work - one that seems to equate human beings and their love-making with the same kind of whimsical biology of nature that Miró had outlined in his paintings of the Catalan landscape such as The Tilled Field, The Hunter and The Trap.