“To paint, to sculpt, to etch, is maybe to give form to a myth, to produce a new reality from a given material, from a physical thrust that forces a gesture to be carried and placed in the world. The real suddenly appears from this struggle. Nothing is foreign to painting, to etching, to sculpture: one can work with anything–everything can be useful. If I frequently integrate the objects as they are, with raw materials, it is not to obtain a plastic effect but by necessity. It is in order to produce the shock of one reality against another . . . I need to walk on my earth, to live among my own, because everything that is popular is necessary for my work.”
Joan Miró, L’Humanité, 1974
Personnage, with its imposing dimensions and striding fortitude, appears as a potent but whimsical Neolithic god, with a massive head, bold protrusion in the lower belly organ and curvilinear striations mapping the figure's sexual organs. The placement of these features and the short truncated arms can also be read as an enlarged human face; a duality that seems to illustrate Miró's metamorphic understanding of what he termed humankind's "true reality," where "forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else. They become each other and in this way create the reality of a universe of signs and symbols in which figures pass from one realm to another, their feet touching the roots, becoming roots themselves as they disappear into the flowing hair of the constellations" (J. Miró, "Statement" in XXe sicle, Paris, June 1957 reproduced in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró - Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 240)
Miró's sculptures were the crowning achievement of his late career. Although he had created surrealist painting-objects during the late 1920s and 1930s, it was not until a decade later, while he was living in Palma, Montroig and Barcelona during the Second World War, that he considered making large free-standing forms. He wrote in his Working Notes, 1941-1942, jotted down in Montroig: ". . . it is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional." He also noted his desire to build himself a "big studio, full of sculptures that give you a tremendous feeling of entering a new world . . . unlike the paintings that are turned facing the wall or images done on a flat surface, the sculptures must resemble living monsters who live in the studio–a world apart" (J. Miró quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 175).
The possibility of undertaking larger and more imposing sculptures became a reality when Miró's "big studio," about which the artist had dreamed for years, was finally built in 1956, in Palma. He would produce nothing more in bronze until 1966, probably because he was too involved in investigating the possibilities of ceramics, but after that point his work became monumental in scale, executed under his supervision by skilled enlargers. These bronzes can be determined as two distinct types: those that have been modelled in clay and those that have been assembled from found objects. The former tend to be smooth and rounded, swollen with mass and yet despite their great weight they appear light, buoyant, and full of life. The latter are often rough and jagged, or are painted in vibrant, eye-popping colors.
In 1972, David Sylvester observed that Miró was a self-made sculptor, not a born one, having developed his talent for three-dimensional form whilst in his fifties. It was perhaps for this reason, Sylvester explained, that Miró had a "tendency to put more trust in the given shapes of found objects than in his power to invent forms in the round. Nevertheless, it seems to me that his finest sculptures are mostly among those to which found objects have not contributed–notably, as to bronzes, certain pieces modelled in 1944-1950 and their recent enlargements" (D. Sylvester, Miró Bonzes, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1972, p. 15).
Miró's close friend and biographer Jacques Dupin describes how he had initially looked upon the artist's sculptures as works created in conjunction with his better known achievements in painting. However, he eventually revised this view, in light of the scope and scale of the artist's later work in bronze: "The sculptures from the last two decades of Miró's productive life took on a broad place and force. For Miró, sculpture became an intrinsic adventure, an important means of expression that competed with the canvas and sheet of paper–the domains and artistic spaces proper to Miró–without ever simply being a mere derivative or deviation from painting. Miró's approach and conception of sculpture offered him an immediate contact with a reality that, in painting, was attainable through the screen of an elaborately constructed language" (J. Dupin in Miró, Barcelona, 2004, pp. 361 and 367).
Miró would link his own growing delight in working in three dimensions to his earliest training as an artist. As a young man his tutor Francesc Galí encouraged him to draw objects from touch rather than sight. In 1970, talking to Dean Swanson, Miró described this process and said: "Galí was a remarkable teacher, and he gave me an exercise so that I would learn to 'see' form: he blindfolded me, and placed objects in my hands, then he asked me to draw the objects without having seen them" (Miró quoted in D. Swanson, "The Artist's Comments", Miró's Sculptures, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1971, n.p.). This formative experience offered Miró entirely new ways of seeing, feeling, and inventing form and ultimately fuelled his attraction to sculpture in his later years: 'the effect of this touch-drawing returns in my interest in sculpture: the need to mould with my hands–to pick up a ball of wet clay like a child and squeeze it. From this I get a physical sensation that I cannot get from drawing or painting" (Miró quoted in J.J. Sweeney, "Joan Miró: Comment and Interview" in Partisan Review, New York, February 1948, p. 67).
Miró is one of those very few artists who mastered everything he tried–painting, murals, printmaking, costume design, poetry, sculpture and ceramics. Apart from his compatriot Picasso, no other artist in the twentieth century has shown such versatility and invention across so wide a range of media. In order to realize his creative vision exactly, Miró made sure he was involved in every aspect of his sculpture's production. He worked closely with the foundries and distinguished different forms of patina between each of the firms he used. Personnage was cast by the lost-wax process at Fonderia Artistica Bonvicini in Verona. It is one of seven casts that is signed and justified by the artist, and it is the second of four numbered examples from that edition. Another cast of Personnage is in collection of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art at Humlebaek in Denmark.
Joan Miró, Constellations: L’oiseau-migrateur, 26 May 1941. Private collection.
Joan Miró, Femme dans la nuit, 6 April 1945. Private collection.
Joan Miró, Projet pour un monument, conceived in 1981. Sold, Christie's New York, 9 May 2007, lot 71.
Joan Miró, Femme (Femme debout), Conceived in 1969. Sold, Christie's London, 6 February 2013, lot 114.