Joan Miró, ‘Personnage, Oiseaux’, 1971-1976, Opera Gallery

Jacques Dupin from ADOM (Association pour la défense de l’œuvre de Joan Miró) has confirmed the authenticity of this work

Signature: Signed ‘Miró’ (lower right); dated and inscribed ‘27/ VII/76. Personnage, oiseaux 12/xII/76./30/VI/71’ (on the reverse)

Alongside Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró was foremost among a great generation of Spanish artists whose innovations were key to the development of modernist painting. Miró is most closely associated with the Surrealist movement, though it is notable that he never formally joined the group for fear that it might constrain his impulses to innovate and experiment. His most important works explore the world of the unconscious, prioritising dreamlike symbolism over rational representation. Among his legacies is the use of "automatic drawing", of which he was among the first and arguably greatest practitioners, a means of freeing expressive gesture from the strictness of cogent thought.
This late watercolour exhibits much of Miró’s familiar symbolism. The titular bird/man figure at the heart of the composition is described as an exploded ziggurat, with several biomorphic extensions describing what can arguably be interpreted as hair, feathers, eyes, breasts and wings. The instinctive immediacy of Miró’s approach is apparent in the balled spirals of colour and the splatter of India ink, a black constellation around which everything else swirls. It is in the delicious ambiguity of the hybrid creature’s features that Miró’s talent for a twisted, dreamlike visual language is most apparent.

Pilar Juncosa, Palma (the artist’s widow)

Sale: Sotheby’s, Madrid, 9 Dec. 1986, lot 27

Sale: Sotheby’s, London, 30 Nov. 1994, lot 242

Private collection, Europe (acquired at the above sale)

About Joan Miró

Joan Miró rejected the constraints of traditional painting, creating works “conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness,” as he once said. Widely considered one of the leading Surrealists, though never officially part of the group, Miró pioneered a wandering linear style of Automatism—a method of “random” drawing that attempted to express the inner workings of the human psyche. Miró used color and form in a symbolic rather than literal manner, his intricate compositions combining abstract elements with recurring motifs like birds, eyes, and the moon. “I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music,” he said. While he prized artistic freedom, Miró revered art history, basing a series of works on the Dutch Baroque interiors of Hendrick Sorgh and Jan Steen. In turn, Miró has inspired many artists—significantly Arshile Gorky, whose bold linear abstractions proved a foundational influence on Abstract Expressionism.

Spanish, 1893-1983, Barcelona, Spain, based in Paris and Catalonia, Spain