Catalogue entry

Joan Miró 1893-1983

T03401 Woman 1949

Bronze 186 x 264 x 224 (7 3/8 x 10 3/8 x 8 3/8)
Incised inscription on underside ‘Miró 7/8' and in another hand ‘V GIMENO | FLINDIT | BARNA'
Purchased from Waddington Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: Acquired from the artist by Galerie Maeght, Paris; bt by Perls Gallery, New York 1974 by whom sold to Waddington Galleries 1981
Exh: ? Sculptures de Miró, Céramiques de Miró et Llorens Artigas, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, April-June 1973 (17, repr. p.59, as ‘Femme', unspecified cast); Joan Miró, Grand Palais, Paris, May-Oct. 1974, (223, repr., as ‘Femme'); ? Exposition Miró Sculptures, Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Feb. 1979 (3, repr. in col., as ‘Femme', unspecified cast); Joan Miró, Waddington Galleries, Dec. 1981 (1, repr., as ‘Femme'); The Touch of Dreams: Joan Miró, Ceramics and Bronzes 1949-80, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, Oct.-Dec. 1985 (3, repr.)
Lit: Richard Calvocoressi, ‘Miró's Sculptures', in Joan Miró, exh. cat. Waddington Galleries, 1981, [p.3], repr. as ‘Femme'; Dawn Ades, ‘Miró's Sculptures', in The Touch of Dreams: Joan Miró, Ceramics and Bronzes 1949-80, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich 1985, pp.21-33, repr. p.3. Also repr: Alain Jouffroy and Joan Teixidor, Miró Sculptures, Paris 1974, repr. p.19, as ‘Femme'; Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, 1986, p.282; Miró Escultor, exh. cat., Centro Reina Sofia, Madrid, Oct. 1986-Jan. 1987, p.114 as ‘Femme'

T03401, which is cast in an edition of 8, is one of Miró's earliest bronze sculptures. Miró had made assemblages and constructions from 1929 but it was not until the late 1930s that he began to work in the traditional medium of moulded sculpture. In an article published in XXième Siècle in 1938 Miró said that it was only a lack of material facilities, notably a large enough studio, that prevented him from experimenting with sculpture, ceramics and printing (quoted in Ades 1985, p.21).

What finally precipitated Miró's move into the field of bronze sculpture was his collaboration with the ceramicist Llorens Artigas in Barcelona in the years 1944-6. Miró decorated plates and vases made by Artigas and also made a few clay figurines of ‘personages' and ‘birds'. Several of these sculptures, which were typically small and had gaping central cavities, were cast into bronze in 1949-50.

Miró has stated that part of the attraction for him of making moulded sculpture lay in the physical pleasure of handling clay. Like many of his early, hand-sized works, T03401 has a strong tactile appeal. In an interview in 1948 he recalled that, in order to improve his drawing skills, he had been encouraged as a student to touch various object blindfolded and then draw them from memory. ‘Even today, thirty years after', he said, ‘the effect of this touch-drawing experience 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' (quoted in Ades 1985, p.26).

From this and other such comments the idea has taken root that Miró's sculptures were based chiefly on the artist's response to the physical nature of his material. However, the holdings of Miró's sketches and notepads at the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona indicate that in this instance, as in many others, Miró developed his bronzes from well-elaborated drawings.

Miró has left a record of his early conception of the front and back views of ‘Woman' in a drawing dated 27 July 1945 (Fundació Joan Miró, repr. Miró Escultor, p.114 no.50a., as ‘Boceto para escultura'). The back view shows the bulbous breasts and navel of the final sculpture. Surprisingly, the sketch of the front of the projected work shows the figure with arms projecting from the body and small breasts. What clearly identifies the drawing as a progenitor of this sculpture, however, is the fact that from a narrower central split and a round, womb-like cavity there emerges a similarly ambiguous projection, suggestive of a phallus or an umbilical cord.

A second drawing, dated 24 August 1945, recapitulates most of these themes (Fundació Joan Miró, repr. Miró Escultor, p.115 no.50b, as ‘Personnage'). In this, however, the phallic form emerges from a simple rectangular cavity at the base of the cone-shaped body, and the figure's arms appear to be conceived not as projections but as lines engraved onto the surface of the body, as they were to be in the sculpture. Miró labelled this second drawing ‘Personage' which suggests that at this preliminary stage he did not think of the sculpture specifically as a woman. Thus, the sexual ambiguity that results in the final work from the juxtaposition of exaggerated female sexual characteristics and the phallic projection may have had its origins in the early conception of the work. On this point Dawn Ades has noted that the curved shape of the head, reminiscent of a horn or a handle, is found chiefly in those figures identified as ‘Personages' rather than specifically as women (Ades 1985, p.26).

Both drawings show a taller, narrower version of the figure than was to appear in the sculpture. This suggests that the sculpture's wide splay of the body or skirts and the pathetic upward lift of the head in an attitude of mute appeal were features of the piece that emerged later in its making. A photograph of the clay version of ‘Woman' can be seen in Roland Penrose, Creación en el espacio de Joan Miró, Barcelona 1972, fig.LII).

Like many works of this early period, this sculpture was subsequently recast on a much larger scale. Entitled ‘Personage', a version of this work, measuring 206 x 289 x 245 cms, was made in painted resin in 1970 (repr. Jouffroy and Teixidor, no.237). The curved head shape appeared again in a sculpture made in 1974, also entitled ‘Personage' (repr. ibid., no.270). The triangular or splayed-skirts form of T03401 occurred frequently in Miró's sculptural work, generally in association with the theme of the female figure (see, for example, ‘Woman', 1967, repr. ibid., no.73 as ‘Femme').

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.530-1