Joan Miró - Evening & Day Editions London Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Phillips
  • “I try to apply colours like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.”
    —Joan Miró

    Joan Miró has been described as a "painter-poet", his works adopting a unique visual vocabulary of inverted metaphors, undiluted primary colours, and rhythmic linearity. Quatre colors aparien el món… translates from Catalan to "Four Colours That Will Beat the World…". The portfolio comprises of five striking, large-scale aquatint etchings that are embossed with vibrant colours. They accompany text written by the poet J. V. Foix, an acknowledged master of Catalan avant-garde poetry and close friend of Miró. The contemplativeness and mystical ardour of their neighbouring Spaniards is often contrasted with the realism contained within the proponents of the distinctly Catalan avant-garde, imbued with a belligerent need for political independence that is fervently attached to the tradition of cultural freedom. Born in Barcelona, Catalonia is a ground from which Miró is inextricably connected to; like the Catalan blood that runs in his veins, so it is the beating heart of his artistic works.


    J. V. Foix and Joan Miró, Montjuïc, 1978.

    During the seminal period of the first decades of the twentieth century, Miró was introduced to avant-garde literature and immediately struck up a friendship with J. V. Foix who had been closely associated with Catalonia’s artistic vanguard since 1917. Foix recognised in Miró the same yearning for a distinctly Catalan past, as they shared the belief that Catalan culture was on the verge of evanescence. However, with the arrival of a new Catalan conservative nationalistic party, the avant-garde took it among themselves to reinvigorate and re-create a new nationalist artistic identity, turning towards the Catalan landscape and ancient history for inspiration. With its Hellenistic roots, they identified with the Romanesque churches and tilled fields, a nostalgic revival that restored the mythic heritage and explored Catalan collective memory for archaic forms. This passionate exaltation of a forgotten past and atavistic identification with nature created a new Catalan identity that was not a provincial idiom: it was an attempt to reunite Western culture and modernity with what they saw as a fragmented and decaying past. Thus, an "International Catalanism" was born, affording a universally meaningful style that nonetheless expressed inherently Catalan values. Foix was the Catalan voice, Miró the Catalan visual.

    “It is on an amiable black background that the most passionate of reds and brightest yellows dance, amorise, fertilise and proliferate with vital warmth.”
    —J. V. Foix, in Quatre colors aparien el món …

    The poem Quatre colors aparien el món… and Miró's illustrations balance this proclamation for Catalan identity with Miró's personal artistic process through a dream-like journey narrated in the first person by Foix. Split into four distinct sections – blanc, groc, vermellion, negre – we are taken on a journey that follows the narrator through a Catalonian landscape described in all its ancient glory, from its "illustrious ladies", "old chieftains", "warriors of mace and spear" to "ancient birds" and "stone figures". The narrator is so overwhelmed by the radiant white light emanating from the laurels of Catalonia that he is suddenly overcome with blindness. Left fretting in a vulnerable state, Miró appears as a mystical apparition to guide the narrator through lands of lightning yellows and fiery reds. After journeying through these territories of vibrant colour – a clear reference to the primary colours depicted in his accompanying etchings – it is in the final text negre that the narrator interrogates Miró's use of the colour black, described as "sooty" and "odorous of tar". The artist, appearing as an enlightened director, states instead that black offers hope, guidance and structure. It is not "shadowy" or "sooty" but an organic black "articulate and vigorous" in form. Miró's application of black helps him discover "opulent possibilities", and, contrary to the opinion of others, is described by the artist as that which from all other colours bleed.



    Through this monumental work we are given immeasurable insight into Miró’s own artistic process as if the artist himself is speaking directly to us, defending his use of solid black forms and thick linearity that dominate his compositions. The pure blocks of primary colours amongst black biomorphic forms afford Miró’s works an air of fantasy and unreality. Foix and the wider literary avant-garde inspired Miró to break apart from traditional artistic syntax, to use subverted metaphors and invent symbols with shifting meaning.


    Miró learnt from the poets to instil a stream-of-consciousness onto his work, an extreme simplification from the depths of imagination: incongruous motifs appear as constellations of connected signs and explosions of colour. This process – the use of randomness, accident, and free association – allowed Miró to depart from his contemporaries in favour of achieving emancipated expression. His compositions dance between abstraction and figuration, and most importantly embrace pre-linguistic impulse that seem wholly dislocated from reality but are always rooted in a deeply personal lived experience. Just like the poetry with which he associated, Miró’s works formulate with clarity and precision loose laconic dispersals of motifs that are rooted in Catalan heritage but also idiosyncratic to their maker. Art was the vehicle, the means, the praxis to concrete visible forms that were at once personal and universal.

    • Literature

      Jacques Dupin 822-826
      Patrick Cramer books 213


Quatre colors aparien el món (Four Colours will Beat the World) (D. 822-826, C. Bks. 213)

The complete set of five etching and aquatints in colours, on Arches paper, the full sheets.
all S. approx. 91 x 63.5 cm (35 7/8 x 25 in.)
All signed and numbered 46/50 in pencil (there were also 5 artist's proofs in Roman numerals), published by Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, lacking the original portfolio and text, all unframed.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 ‡♠

Sold for £27,940

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 6 - 7 June 2024