Although André Breton did not actually meet Miró until 1925, with the benefit of historical hindsight the great theoretician of the Surrealist movement stated in 1941, "Miró's turbulent entry upon the scene in 1924 marked an important stage in the development of Surrealist art" (quoted in C. Lanchner, op. cit., p. 16). As recounted in the catalogue note to lot 14, in the four years since Miró first visited Paris in 1920, his means of expression had evolved in a consistent and steady manner from a classicized realism with Cubist elements to a more metaphorical and liberated means of rendering his subjects in an imaginary spatial context.
Pictures of 1924 like Portrait de Mme K. (lot 14) and La Famille (see note to lot 114, fig. 4) display this new, intensely subjective and associative approach, in which Miró peals back the specific nature of objects in order to reveal a more generalized mythic reality. Miró was interested in the Dadaist movement even before he came to Paris, and once he arrived, his friendships with André Masson and a group of avant-garde poets drew him into a close orbit around the nascent Surrealist movement. He was in Paris during the spring of 1924 when he completed the afore-mentioned pictures as well as the present work. In October, while Miró was back on his family's estate at Montroig, near Barcelona, the storm finally broke: Breton published the first Manifeste du Surréalisme.
Breton defined Surrealism in the manifesto as "Pure psychic automatism, by which one intends to express verbally, in writing or by any other method, the real functioning of the mind. Dictation by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, and beyond any aesthetic or moral preoccupation. Surrealism is based on the belief in a superior reality of certain forms of association heretofore neglected, in the omnipotence of dreams, in the undirected play of thought" (quoted in W. Rubin, Dada, Surrealism and Their Heritage, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968, p. 64).
As an evocation of the culture and customs of his native land, the subject of the Spanish dancer occupies a place in Miró's oeuvre similar to the presence of the guitar in the works of Picasso. In fact, Miró's first major treatment of this theme, Tête d'une danseuse espagnole, painted in Paris during the spring of 1921, was owned by Picasso from around 1937 (fig. 1). One may imagine Picasso admiring Miró's painting as it hung across the room from one of his own Neo-Classical works, such as Olga Picasso en costume espagnol, painted in Barcelona in 1917 (Zervos, 3, 40; Private Collection, Paris).
Danseuse espagnole was painted only three years later, and marks the radical transformation in Miró's approach to his subject matter that made him an avatar of Surrealist automatism. The puffed-up volumes and burnished classical surface of the 1921 Tête have been completely dispensed with. Miró took the subject for Danseuse espagnole from a photograph of a seated dancer in Spanish costume on a magazine cover (fig. 2). In the process of translating the image and breaking it down into violently disfigured components, the artist has eliminated illusionist depth, and used modeling only in the breast and the conical shape at lower right.
As in the Portrait de Mme K., the structure of Danseuse espagnole is based on a schematic grid. However, in contrast to the former, in which the elements of the figure are positioned in and around a lozenge shape, Danseuse espagnole is plotted along the arms of an emphatic 'X' axis that runs from corner to opposite corner. Miró made no effort to overpaint the lines and the complete underlying grid is plainly visible in both paintings.
Danseuse espagnole makes use of the silhouetted head seen in Portrait de Mme K., crowned in this instance with the dancer's elaborate headdress. Miró also used the cut breast seen in three-quarter view on the left side of Mme K. A ruffled dress-strap is visible on the dancer's shoulder, and her arms, one with bangles, are wave-like tentacles, beseeching the moon surmounted by tiny clouds in the upper left. Miró added a final humorous element in the shape of a small key inserted into the armature that represents the dancer's torso. She is a wind-up toy. Miró depicted a doll and a toy horse in Les Joujoux, painted around the same time [fig. 3]. The dancer's figure is set at a diagonal rather than standing upright, which may indicate that her mechanism has run down and she now leans back, exhausted from her performance.
Danseuse espagnole and Portrait de Mme K. taken together represent complementary dual aspects of their feminine subject, and it seems apt that Miró worked on these paintings around the same time, if not concurrently. Their shared elements head and breast declare the dancer's and Mme K.'s common identity and desirability as women. However, whereas Mme K., in her profound physicality, represents an eternal, archetypal female principle and proclaims the power of her sexuality, the Spanish dancer is an entertainer, a costumed toy, a crowd-pleaser for the here and now. In an oil painting likewise titled Danseuse espagnole and painted in 1924, the humorous stereotype of the performer as a relic of national custom is topped off with a shouted "olé" (fig. 4).
As René Gaffé wrote about the present work:
Joan Miró dans la vie privée, se distingue par son ingénuité, sa douceur, son calme, sa grande modestie, sa politesse raffinée. Il avait cependant affronté de pénibles débuts, mais rien ne l'émouvait que le désir de peindre mieux ou autrement que tout le monde. Il allait bientôt rencontrer les encouragements de Pierre Loeb sous la forme d'un contrat. Miró n'a certainement pas oublié l'admiration qui s'empara de moi à la vue des toiles qu'il avait fixées aux murs de l'atelier 22 rue Tourlaque, Cité des Fusains, qu'il partageait avec Max Ernst. Je dus souvent, par la suite, m'étonner que ce petit homme s'attaquât à des toiles qui le dépassaient de plusieurs mètres comme la 'Danseuse Espagnole' (1924) et 'La Naissance du Monde' (1925), achetées aussitôt terminées, ce qui me valut les plus beaux quolibets que les amateurs, qui savent tout, me décochèrent impitoyablement. Après trente-sept années de vie commune, ces oeuvres étonnantes continuent à me remplir d'une joie sans égale.
Joan Miró in private life stands out by his ingenuity, his gentleness, his calm, his great modesty, and his refined politeness. He had however, confronted harsh beginnings, but nothing moved him except the desire to paint differently and better than anybody else. He was soon to receive the encouragement of Pierre Loeb in the form of a contract. Certainly, Miró did not forget the admiration that got hold of me when I saw his canvases hanging on the walls of the studio 22, rue de Tourlaque, Citié des Fusains, which he shared with Max Ernst. It always surprised me later on, that this little man took on canvasses which were higher than him by several meters such as La Danseuse espagnole (1924) and La Naissance du Monde (1925), bought upon completion. This earned me the biggest jibes that the amateurs, who of course know everything, threw at me without mercy. After living together with them for thirty-seven years, these works still fill me with unequalled joy. (R. Gaffé, op. cit., 1963, pp. 107-108)
Please note this painting has been requested for the following upcoming exhibitions: Joan Miró: 1918-1945 to be held at the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, July-September 2002 and the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya, October-December 2002; Joan Miró: Snail Woman Flower Star to be held at the Museum Kunst Palast in Dusseldorf, July-October 2002; and Rétrospective Joan Miró to be held at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou in Paris, 2004.
Preparatory drawing for Danseuse espagnole.
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona.
ADAGP, Succession Joan Miró, 2001
(fig. 1) Joan Miró, Portrait d'une danseuse espagnole, 1921.
Musée Picasso, Paris.
ADAGP, Succession Joan Miró, 2001
(fig. 2) Cover of the magazine La Union Illustrada; source image.
(fig. 3) Joan Miró, Les Joujoux, 1924.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
ADAGP, Succession Joan Miró, 2001
(fig. 4) Joan Miró, Danseuse espagnole, 1924.
Musées des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
ADAGP, Succession Joan Miró, 2001
Charcoal, colored crayon, pastel, sanguine, white chalk and pencil on primed (blanc de Meudon) canvas
THE COLLECTION OF RENÉ GAFFÉ
Property from the Estate of Madame René Gaffé
Signed and dated 'Miró.1924' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled 'Joan Miró. Danseuse Espagnole 1924.' (on the reverse)
Paris, Galerie Pierre, Joan Miró, June 1925, no. 7.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Joan Miró, January-March 1956, no. 9 (illustrated; with incorrect medium gouache and oil, on canvas; with incorrect dimensions 238 x 143 cm.; attributed to the collection of René Gaffe).
94¼ x 58 5/8 in. (239.5 x 149 cm.)
F. Trabal, "Les Arts: Una Conversa amb Joan Miró", La Publicitat, vol. 50 (no. 16932), 14 July 1928, p. 4.
R. Gaffé, "Joan Miró", Cahiers d'Art, 9th year (nos. 1-4), 1934, pp. 30-33 (illustrated upside-down, p. 31, fig. 14; attributed to Collection René Gaffé).
C. Zervos, Histoire de l'art contemporain, Paris, 1938, p. 420 (illustrated).
J. Miró, "Je rêve d'un grand atelier", XXe Siècle, vol. 1 (no. 2), May-June 1938, p. 27.
S. Takiguchi, Miró, Tokyo, 1940, p. 8.
C. Greenberg, Joan Miró, New York, 1948, pp. 23-34.
A. Cirici-Pellicer, Miró y la imaginación, Barcelona, 1949, no. 17 (illustrated upside-down).
J. Dupin, "Miró", Quadrum, vol. I (no. 1), May 1956, p. 97.
D. Chevalier, "La collection de René Gaffé dans sa maison du Haut-de-Cagnes", Aujourd'hui Art et Architecture, vol. 5 (no. 25), February 1960, p. 32 (illustrated).
J. Dupin, Joan Miró, Paris, 1961, pp. 144, 152 and 508, no. 87 (illustrated, p. 508).
R. Gaffé, A la verticale: Réflexions d'un collectionneur, Brussels, 1963, p. 108 (illustrated, p. 154; illustrated upside-down). J. Lassaigne, Miró, Lausanne, 1963, p. 38.
G. Picon, Miró. Carnets catalans, Geneva, 1976, vol. I, pp. 87-88 and 91 (illustrated, p. 89).
R. Rosenblum, Cubism and Twentieth Century Art, New York, 1976, p. 343, no. 186 (illustrated, pl. 186).
G. Weelen, Miró, Paris, 1984, p. 62, no. 67.
M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, pp. 94, 102, 161 and 313, no. 20.
B. Bouret, Joan Miró, exh. cat., Musée d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, 1986.
R.M. Malet, Obra de Joan Miró: Dubuixas, pintura, escultura, ceramica, textils, Barcelona, 1988, no. 228 (preparatory drawing illustrated).
G. Raillard, Miró, London, 1989, pp. 35 and 37.
A. Umland, "Joan Miró's Collage of Summer 1929: 'La peinture au défi?'", Studies in Modern Art 2: Essays on Assemblage, New York, 1992, p. 69.
J. Dupin, Miró, Paris, 1993, pp. 101-102, fig. 99 (illustrated, p. 102).
P. Gimferrer, Les arrels de Miró, Barcelona, 1993, p. 82, fig. 137 (illustrated).
C. Lanchner, Joan Miró, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993-1994, p. 376, no. 31 (illustrated in color, p. 116; with incorrect medium oil, charcoal and tempera on canvas; with incorrect dimensions 92 x 73 cm.; dated Paris, spring 1924).
V. Combalía, Picasso-Miró. Miradas cruzadas, Madrid, 1998, p. 43, fig. 18 (illustrated).
J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró catalogue raisonné. Paintings, Paris, 1999, vol. 1 (1908-1930), p. 86, no. 94 (illustrated in color; with incorrect medium oil, charcoal and tempera; with incorrect dimensions 245 x 154 cm.).
Paul Eluard, Paris (acquired from the artist, by 26 October 1926; per The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1993-1994) exhibition catalogue).
Galerie Pierre, Paris.