Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more MASTERWORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF ANTONI TÀPIESChristie’s is honoured to present a selection of Twentieth Century Masterworks from the personal collection of Antoni Tàpies. Offered across a series of auctions throughout 2017 and 2018, these exceptional works offer a unique insight into the powerful bond that existed between this revolutionary artist and the paintings, sculptures and artefacts he encountered over the course of his lifetime. Highly intimate objects, gathered together over the course of his meandering collecting journey, these objects were closely connected to Tàpies’s own artistic practice and reflect the seminal relationships, friendships and concepts that inspired him throughout his artistic career. Each work in the collection stands as a testament to the critical, perceptive and engaged way of looking that Tàpies was renowned for, and the passion he had for the works of his artistic and cultural forebears. Gathering together artworks and objects apparently epochs and cultures apart, Tàpies collected passionately, but in a unique and idiosyncratic manner. An avid reader of ancient and Eastern philosophy, he held a deep fascination for the concept of ‘authentic reality’, a state of awakening which could be triggered by contact with a piece of art. As his son, Toni has explained: ‘For Tàpies, an artwork had to be like a talisman. A talisman capable of transmitting wisdom, thought and answers to the deepest doubts and concerns that may face a human being’ (T. Tàpies, ‘A Personal View’, in Tàpies: Lo Sguardo Dell’Artista, exh. cat., Venice, 2013, p. 27). It was this energy, the unique spirit of an artwork, that Tàpies sought in all he collected. It was a power which obsessed him, which he attempted to absorb, to digest and nurture, to combine with his own artistic vision, and finally, to translate into the gestures, strokes and marks he put down on his canvases. Each of these carefully selected works of art, chosen for their visual and spiritual presence, provided Tàpies with a personal library of visual stimuli, which acted as a catalyst for his own creative impulses and shaped and influenced his art throughout his career. The importance of these artworks in Tàpies’s everyday experience is evident – these are the images and shapes which captured his imagination, comforted him, inspired him and obsessed him on a daily basis. Each of these artworks provided essential nourishment for Tàpies’s creativity, opening a path for his artistic evolution and pushing his work to new levels of dynamic expression.
Joan Miró (1893-1983)

Tête d'homme

Details
Joan Miró (1893-1983)
Tête d'homme
signed, dated and inscribed 'Joan Miró. 9-32. "Tête d'homme."' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
13 7/8 x 10 3/4 in. (35.2 x 27.3 cm.)
Painted in September 1932
Provenance
Galerie Pierre Colle, Paris.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1933.
Galerie Maeght, Paris, by 1962 until at least 1983.
Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
M. M., 'Pierre Matisse Exhibits Miro', in The Art News, vol. 32, no. 14, New York, 6 January 1934, p. 4.
E. Jewett, 'Three Exhibits Get Attention at Arts Club: Compositions of the Modernist Puzzle Critic', in Chicago Tribune, Chicago, 17 March 1934, p. 19.
J. Prévert & G. Ribemont-Dessaignes, Joan Miró, Paris, 1956, p. 124 (illustrated p. 125).
J. Dupin, Joan Miró: Life and Work, London, 1962, no. 318, pp. 249 & 526 (illustrated p. 313).
P. Gimferrer, Miró y su mundo, Barcelona, 1978, no. 59, p. 62 (illustrated p. 63).
R.M. Malet, Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1983, no. 40, p. 127 (illustrated fig. 40).
A. Tàpies, El arte y sus lugares, Madrid, 1999, p. 382 (illustrated p. 383).
J. Dupin & A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró, Catalogue raisonné, Paintings, vol. II, 1931-1941, Paris, 2000, no. 400, p. 60 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Pierre Colle, Exposition Miró, December 1932.
London, The Mayor Gallery, Paintings by Joan Miró, July 1933, no. 8, n.p..
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Joan Miró, Paintings, December 1933 - January 1934, no. 7, n.p..
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Paintings by Joan Miró, March 1934, no. 4, n.p..
San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, Drawings and Pastels by Miró, June - August 1935.
Los Angeles, Stanley Rose Gallery, Joan Miró, October - November 1935.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Cubism and Abstract Art, March - April 1936, no. 171, p. 217 (illustrated fig. 203, p. 184).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Joan Miró, January - February 1956, no. 36, n.p..
Basel, Kunsthalle, Joan Miró, March - April 1956, no. 33, p. 10.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Miró, July - September 1968, no. 23, n.p..
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Joan Miró, March - May 1969, no. 35 (illustrated).
Barcelona, Galería Maeght, Un Camí compartit: Miró-Maeght, December 1975 - January 1976, no. 21, n.p..
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Impactes, Joan Miró 1929-1941, November 1988 - January 1989, no. 17, p. 11 (illustrated p. 46).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Joan Miró, October 1993 - January 1994, no. 100, pp. 398-399 (illustrated pp. 187 & 399).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Joan Miró, 1917-1934, March - June 2004, no. 191, p. 398 (illustrated pp. 260 & 398).
Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Tàpies. An artist's collection, June 2015 - January 2016, no catalogue.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

‘I am working with great enthusiasm on a new series of objects, and as soon as they are finished I shall make small paintings as concentrated as possible which express and sum up, as best as my strength will allow, my latest research...’ (Miró, in a letter to Christian Zervos, dated 20 January 1932, quoted in A. de la Beaumelle, ed., Joan Miró, 1917-1934, exh. cat., Paris, 2004, p. 357).

‘When I stand in front of a canvas, I never know what I’m going to do – and nobody is more surprised than I at what comes out’ -Joan Miró.

Executed in the early autumn of 1932, Tête d’homme is one of a small group of twelve exquisitely painted, intimately sized, experimental oil paintings which emerged at a pivotal moment in Joan Miró’s career, following several years marked by what the artist termed a ‘crisis of personal consciousness’ (Miró, quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 266). This crisis had led him to fundamentally question painting as an outlet for his creativity, and the late 1920s and early 1930s are often collectively known as his period of ‘anti-painting,’ in which he pursued the ‘assassination of painting’ after a remark ascribed to him by the poet Maurice Raynal. During this turbulent phase, Miró began to experiment intensely with various media including collage and sculptural assemblage, producing only a handful of oils on canvas that were intended as a ‘goodbye’ to painting (Miró, quoted in A. Umland, ‘Large Paintings on White Grounds,’ in A. Umland et al., Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937, exh. cat., New York, p. 86). However, by 1932 Miró found himself drawn once again to the medium of paint, and the artist embarked on a series of transitional works on wood and canvas which not only embodied his most recent research, but also heralded a new direction in his art which would occupy him for much of the following year.

This new phase of creativity coincided with a period of serious financial difficulty for the artist, which forced him to abandon his flat in Rue Francois-Mouthon in Paris and return once again to Barcelona. In January 1932, he settled at number 4, Passatge del Crèdit, his childhood home where his mother still lived. Writing to Christian Zervos shortly after the move, he described his new studio and the oddness he felt upon his return: ‘I just have to tell you that the room which will from now on be my studio is the room where I was born. This, after an eventful life and the experience of a reasonable success, feels very strange and worthy of being shared with you’ (Miró, quoted in A. de la Beaumelle, ed., Joan Miró, 1917-1934, exh. cat., Paris, 2004, p. 357). Just a few weeks later, in February 1932, he was commissioned to design the décor and costumes for the Ballet Russes production of Jeux d’enfants, a project which engrossed him for much of the first half of the year, and which he predicted would be ‘as sensational as a bullfight or heavyweight match’ (Miró, quoted in C. Lanchner, Joan Miró, exh. cat., New York, 1993, p. 58). After the ballet’s premiere in June, Miró devoted the rest of the summer months to painting, producing a number of compositions on wood which take as their subject the distorted bodies of a collection of mysterious biomorphic figures. While the majority of this series focus on the contortions of the female body, Tête d’homme is unique in that it is the only one which takes the male cranium as its subject. Executed in acidic, glowing colours, Miró divides the head into a series of overlapping, converging, fluid planes, creating an abstract vision of the contours of the male physiognomy.

One of the most striking aspects of this work is the artist’s bold use of colour, and the manner in which the curvilinear, meandering contours of the different portions of the head are delineated by sharp divergences in pigment. While they shift dramatically from cobalt blue to sharp tangerine, acidic yellow to pale lilac, the interlocking abstract forms maintain a sense of unity. This is in part due to the subtle way in which the artist utilises colour to highlight and accentuate the interconnectedness of the shapes. In some cases, the forms appear to overlap or bleed into one another, and the point of intersection is marked by a new shade. Like a Venn diagram, this section retains elements of the two converging shapes, while also attaining a new identity, at once independent and unique from its neighbours. In other areas, colour is introduced using a subtle gradated application of paint, creating soft, blurred patches of pigment along the borders of these forms. For example, small touches of green are introduced to the corners of the central orange portion of the composition, their edges fanning outwards as they gradually merge with the rest of the tangerine pigment, while the small, curving cloud of black adds a greater sense of depth to the upper portion of the shape as it meets its blue neighbour. While the question as to whether the colours contain any symbolic or anatomical references remains a mystery, their visual power when combined in this manner imbues the composition with an enigmatic sense of harmony.

Exhibited at the Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris in December 1932, and then shortly afterwards in 1933 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, this series of works on board signalled a distinctive shift in Miró’s approach to painting. For the artist, they illustrated not only a condensed synthesis of the theories and ideas which had occupied him for much of the previous two years, but also the path which lay ahead. As Miró explained, paintings such as Tête d’homme were often the gateway for his creativity: ‘…when I’ve finished something I discover it’s just a basis for what I’ve got to do next. It’s never anything more than a point of departure, and I’ve got to take off from there in the opposite direction… Far from being a finished work, to me it’s just a beginning, a hotbed for the idea that’s just sprouted, just emerged…’ (Miró, quoted in F. Trabal, ‘A Conversation with Joan Miró,’ in Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, ed., M. Rowell, London, 1987, p. 98).

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