About This Artwork

Joan Miró
Spanish, 1893–1983

Portrait of Juanita Obrador, 1918

Oil on canvas
27 3/8 x 24 3/8 in. (69.5 x 62 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Miro/1918

Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1957.78

© 2018 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

This painting belongs to a group of fascinating and highly individual works by Joan Miró that document his early efforts to grapple with revolutionary developments in modern art (such as Fauvism and Cubism) and to forge his own direction. These efforts culminated in the early 1920s in the artist's breakthrough to a style of fantastic, simplified forms, freely and loosely scattered across the surface of his pictures with an exuberant abandon that is hard to imagine based on this tightly constructed portrait. And yet, something of this exuberance—of the vitality and poetic intensity of Miró‘s later works—seems indeed to underly this strangely powerful portrait, manifesting itself, for example, in the unrestrained rhythms of the dress, barely held in check by the diamond grid in the background, or in the lyrical note introduced by the small flower on the front of the dress.

Different and often contrasting impulses are brought here into uneasy balance through the sheer force of Miró's talent for creating compelling simplifications of the forms before him. The strong rhythms established by the dress, wallpaper, and face all vie for attention, as do the artist's various sources of inspiration: the influence of the Fauves and especially of Henri Matisse in the bold use of color, dense application of paint, and flat patterning of the dress and background; the effect of Cubism in the far more sculptural, angular treatment of the face; and the impact of the Romanesque frescoes of Miró's native Catalonia (which the artist himself acknowledged as a major inspiration) in the linear rhythms of the dress, hair, and background, in the frontal pose, and in the large, staring eyes. This is a painting of dramatic contrasts, between the insistent flatness of the dress and back-ground and the Cubist modeling of the face, between the startling pink of the wallpaper and the restrained black-and-white color scheme of the dress, between the human presence of the sitter and the strong linear patterns that threaten to engulf it. It does not seem surprising, given the impact this portrait still has today, that the young woman who initially agreed to sit for it became frightened both by Miró's intensity and his strange style of painting, forcing him to finish the portrait from memory.

—Entry, Margherita Andreotti, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, Vol. 20, No. 2, The Joseph Winterbotham Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago (1994), p. 152-153.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Joan Miró, January–February 1956, no. 5, n.p. (ill.); traveled to Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, February–March 1956, as Portrait á la tapisserie.

Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Joan Miró March 24–April 29, 1956, no. 5, as Portrait á la tapisserie.

Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Miró, July 16–September 30, 1968, no. 5.

New York, Acquavella Galleries, Joan Miró, October 18–November 18, 1972, no. 5.

Paris, Grand Palais, Joan Miró, May 17–October 13, 1974, no. 4.

Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Miró: Selected Paintings , March 20–June 8, 1980; traveled to Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, June 27–August 17, 1980.

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Joan Miró, November 21, 1986-February 1, 1987; traveled to Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle, February 14-April 20, 1987 and New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, May 15-August 23, 1987.

Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró, Joan Miró: 1893–1993, April 20–August 30, 1993, no. 31.

Publication History

Joseph Fontales Ráfols, "Miró antes de ‘La Masia’" Anales y boletín de los museos de arte de Barcelona, vol. 6, no. 3–4 (July-December 1948): 497–502, ill. n.p.

Jacques Revert and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Joan Miró (Paris, 1956), ill. opp. p. 109.

"Accessions of American and Canadian Museums," Art Quarterly XX (Autumn 1957), p. 326 (ill.), fig. 3.

Eduard Hüttinger, Miró (Bern, 1957), pp. 10–11, fig. 5.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1961), pp. 314, 430 (ill.).

Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró: Life and Work, trans. By Norbert Guterman (New York, 1962), pp. 80, 81, 505, fig. 53.

Jacques Lassaigne, Miró, trans. Stuart Gilbert (Geneva, 1963), pp. 21, 23 (ill.).

Yves Bonnefoy, Miró (Milan, 1964), p. 8, fig. 5.

A. James Speyer, "Twentieth-Century European Paintings and Sculpture,"Apollo 84 (September 1966), p. 225.

Mario Bucci, Joan Miró: I Meastri del Novecento (Florence and Paris, 1968), pp. 16–17, fig. 9.

Juan Perucho, Joan Miró and Catalonia (New York, 1968), p. 50, fig. 26.

John Maxon, The Art Institute of Chicago (New York, 1970), p. 271 (ill.).

Michel Chilo, Miró: L’Artiste et l’Oeuvre, Archives Maeght 2 (Paris, 1971), pl. 29.

A. James Speyer and Courtney Graham Donnell, Twentieth-Century European Paintings (Chicago, 1980), p. 56, 2G7.

Ownership History

Aimé Maeght (Galerie Maeght), Paris, acquired directly from the artist by March 1956 [letter April 12, 2003 from Kunsthalle Basel and letter July 15, 2003 from Association pour la défense de l’oeuvre de Joan Miró, in curatorial file]; sold to an unnamed Paris dealer [letter October 26, 1976 from Pierre Matisse Gallery, in curatorial file]; sold to Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1957 [letter October 26, 1976 mentioned above]; sold to the Art Institute through Joseph Winterbotham Collection funds, 1957.

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