Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Potato

Artist:
Joan Miró (Spanish, Barcelona 1893–1983 Palma de Mallorca)
Date:
1928
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
39 3/4 x 32 1/8 in. (101 x 81.6 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Accession Number:
1999.363.50
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 906
Born in the Spanish province of Catalonia, Joan Miró was deeply influenced by his country's native landscape and artistic heritage. Although he was associated with French Surrealism and its practitioners and lived in Paris during the early part of his career, he returned to settle in Spain after World War II. This deliberate remove from the center of the art world is symptomatic of Miró's independence, a temperament that would mark his art as well as his life. Drawing on the possiblilities of free invention encouraged by Surrealism, Miró developed a style that drew from highly personalized and psychological references. Often beginning with a recognizable starting point, Miró transformed his subjects through whimsical color and free play with form.

"The Potato" is emblematic of Miró's poetic riffs on reality. It takes as its subject a gigantic female figure who stretches her arms wide. She is set against a blue sky and above a patch of earth—perhaps a potato field. The billowing white shape of the figure is attached to a red post in the center of the composition like a scarecrow on a pole. Miró surrounded his merry "potato-earth-woman" with fanciful decorative objects, some of which are "earthy" and some not. The figure has one brown-and-black breast that "squirts" a long, black, winding thread, as elfin creatures flutter in the sky around her. At the left, a red and yellow "butterfly-woman" takes flight from her brown banana-like nose as other creatures climb a ladder—one of Miró's favorite motifs. Beyond the earthiness of the subject, the painting's title appears to be derived from the representation of an actual, recognizable potato: lodged in the woman's forehead is a small, brown, oval object with three tendrils growing out of its upper edge.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (verso): Joan Miró/ Pomme de Terre/ 1928
[Galerie Pierre, Paris, until 1930; sold on July 30, 1930, for Fr 10,000, to Valentine]; [Valentine Gallery, New York, owned jointly with Pierre Matisse, 1930–35; stock no. 340; in April 1935, Valentine's share turned over to Matisse]; [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1935; stock no. 110; sold on April 29, 1935, for $500, to Laughlin]; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas I. Laughlin, New York (1935–55; their gift to James B. Laughlin); their son, James B. Laughlin, New York and Darien, Conn. (1955–75; sold in January 1975, through Pierre Matisse, to Etablissement Vie des Arts); Etablissement Vie des Arts, Vaduz, Switzerland (1975; sold on November 5, 1975, through Pierre Matisse, to Gelman); Jacques and Natasha Gelman, New York (1975–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)

Paris. Galerie Pierre. "Exposition Joan Miró," March 7–14, 1930, no. 4 (as "Pomme de terre").

New York. Valentine Gallery. "Joan Miró," October 20–November 8, 1930, no. 10 (as "Pommes de terres" [sic]).

Arts Club of Chicago. "Paintings by Joan Miró," January 27–February 17, 1931, no. 10 (as "Pommes de terre" [sic]).

New York. L'Elan Gallery. "Modern Paintings and Sculpture for the Modern Home," September 22–October 15, 1931, no catalogue.

Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Newer Super-realism," November 10–December 7, 1931, no. 33 (as "Pomme de terre," lent by the Valentine Gallery, New York).

New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Joan Miró," November 30–December 26, 1936, no. 10 (as "The Potato," lent anonymously).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Joan Miró," November 18, 1941–January 11, 1942, unnumbered cat. (frontispiece; as "The Potato," lent by a private collection, New York).

Northampton, Mass. Smith College Museum of Art. "Joan Miró," February 1–28, 1942, no catalogue.

Poughkeepsie. Vassar College. "Joan Miró," March 7–28, 1942, no catalogue.

Portland, Ore. Portland Art Museum. "Joan Miró," April 8–May 6, 1942, no catalogue.

San Francisco Museum of Art. "Joan Miró," June 2–July 5, 1942, no catalogue.

Venice. Palazzo Centrale. "XXVII Biennale," June 19–October 17, 1954, no. 12 (Sala XLVI; as "La Patata," lent by a private collection, New York).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Joan Miró," March 18–May 10, 1959, checklist no. 37 (as "The Potato," lent by a private collection, New York).

Los Angeles County Museum. "Joan Miró," June 10–July 21, 1959, checklist no. 35.

Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne. "Joan Miró," June–November 1962, no. 49 (as "La Pomme de Terre," lent by a private collection, New York).

London. Tate Gallery. "Joan Miró," August 27–October 11, 1964, no. 80 (as "The Potato," lent by a private collection, New York).

Kunsthaus Zürich. "Joan Miró," October 31–December 6, 1964, no. 80.

New York. Acquavella Galleries. "Joan Miró," October 18–November 18, 1972, no. 19 (as "The Potato").

Paris. Grand Palais. "Joan Miró," May 17–October 13, 1974, no. 35 (as "La pomme de terre," lent by a private collection, New York).

London. Hayward Gallery. "Dada and Surrealism Reviewed," January 11–March 27, 1978, no. 9.61 (as "La pomme de terre [The potato]," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Gelman).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 184; as "The Potato").

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.

Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Fondation Maeght. "Joan Miró: Rétrospective de l'œuvre peint," July 4–October 7, 1990, no. 35 (lent by the Collection Jacques and Natasha Gelman, New York) [joined the exhibition following the close of Exh. London 1990].

Mexico City. Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo. "La Colección de Pintura Mexicana de Jacques y Natasha Gelman," June 23–October 11, 1992, not in catalogue.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Joan Miró," October 17, 1993–January 11, 1994, no. 80 (lent by The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection).

Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 208).

Mexico City. Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo. "Joan Miró, la Colección del Centro Georges Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne y otras colecciones," February 12–May 24, 1998, no. 15 (as "La Papa").

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," September 14–November 24, 2002, no. 57 (as "The Potato").

Tokyo. Bunkamura Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 7, 2002–March 9, 2003, no. 57.

Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou. "Joan Miró, 1917–1934: La naissance du monde," March 3–June 28, 2004, no.141 (as "The Potato").

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927–1937," November 2, 2008–January 12, 2009, unnumbered cat. (pl. 16).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Miró: The Dutch Interiors," October 5, 2010–January 17, 2011, no catalogue.

Joan Miró. Letter to Pierre Loeb. July 9, 1928 [Archive Albert Loeb, Paris; excerpt published in English transl. in Ref. Beaumelle 2004, p. 338], remarks that he has begun to prepare canvases inspired by the Dutch masters [including this picture].

Joan Miró. Letter to Pierre Loeb. November 12, 1928 [Archive Albert Loeb, Paris; excerpt published in English transl. in Ref. Beaumelle 2004, p. 341], refers to this picture as the fourth and next to last of the Dutch interior series, commenting that it is "the one that gave me the most grief".

Joan Miró. Letter to Sebastià Gasch. August 16, 1928 [published in Ref. Ainaud de Lasarte 2009, p. 369, no. 248], states that he plans to complete five canvases [the three Dutch Interiors, including MMA 1996.403.8, this picture, and "Still Life with Lamp" (private collection; DL 1999, no. 307)].

Focius. "Les Lletres: Meridians." La Publicitat 52 (March 12, 1930), p. 6.

[Henry McBride]. "Mystic Art of Jean [sic] Miró: A Difficult Parisian Shows Here at the Valentine Gallery." Sun (October 25, 1930), p. 8, comments that in this picture and "Dutch Interior" (Museum of Modern Art, New York or Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; DL 1999 nos. 304, 305) Miró "gives himself up to his fancy without reserve and records his findings with the precision of an early Dutch master".

"News and Comment on Current Art Events." New York Herald Tribune (September 27, 1931), section 8, p. 8.

Edward Alden Jewell. "'Primitive' and Otherwise." New York Times (September 27, 1931), p. X11.

Vicente Huidobro. Cahiers d'art 9, no. 1-4 (1934), fig. 25, as in the collection of Valentine Dudensing.

Martha Davidson. "Subconscious Pictography by Joan Miró." Art News 35 (December 5, 1936), pp. 11, 26.

"Miró is as Miró Does." New York Times (December 6, 1936), p. X13.

Christian Zervos. Histoire de l'art contemporain. Paris, 1938, ill. p. 426, erroneously as still in the Valentine Gallery.

"Art Shows in New York: Surrealism by Dalí and Miró." Boston Herald (December 14, 1941).

James Johnson Sweeney. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1941, p. 47, ill. frontispiece (color).

Parker Tyler. "The Amorphous and Fragmentary in Modern Art." Art News 44 (August 1945), ill. p. 16 (color).

Lionello Venturi. Pittura Contemporanea. Milan, [1947], p. 70, pl. 210, as in a private collection, New York.

A[lexandre]. Cirici-Pellicer. Miró y la imaginación. Barcelona, 1949, pp. 27–28, pl. 33.

J[uan].-E[duardo]. Cirlot. Joan Miró. Barcelona, 1949, p. 42.

Clement Greenberg. Joan Miró. rev. ed. [1st ed., 1948]. New York, 1950, pp. 33, 129, ill. p. 63 (color), as "The Potato," in a private collection, New York City; discusses it as part of the Dutch Interiors series.

James Thrall Soby. Joan Miró. New York, 1959, pp. 58–59, ill. (color).

Jacques Dupin. Joan Miró: Life and Work. New York, [1962] (French ed., 1961), pp. 189, 192, no. 237, ill. pp. 226, 520, remarks that it might be added to the Dutch Interior series, since it is painted in the same "spirit and manner"; describes it as "the very image of the Earth in the guise of woman—Mother Earth".

G[uy]. H[abasque]. "Les livres sur l'art: Miró par Jacques Dupin." L'Oeil no. 93 (September 1962), ill. p. 51.

Gene Baro. "Miró: A Leap in the Air." Arts Magazine 39 (October 1964), p. 41.

Roland Penrose. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1964, p. 28, no. 80, pl. 17b, states that this picture's source was a seventeenth-century painting of a woman.

Herbert Juin. "Miró." Le Arti 17 (March 1967), ill. p. 9 (color).

Roland Penrose. Miró. London, 1970, pp. 63–64, 208, pl. 40, as on loan to the MMA from a private collection, New York; comments that the letter "M" on the figure's hand "besides having a religious connotation, is common to most hands and happens also to be Miró's own initial".

Margit Rowell in Rosalind Krauss and Margit Rowell. Joan Miró: Magnetic Fields. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 1972, p. 46 n. 24, cites it as an example of Miró's conflation of the motifs of woman, sun, and potato.

Douglas Cooper. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Acquavella Galleries. New York, 1972, unpaginated, no. 19, ill. (color).

William Rubin. Miró in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1973, p. 119 n. 1.

Gaston Diehl. Miró. New York, 1974, p. 36.

Jean Leymarie. "Joan Miró." Louisiana Revy 15 (November 1974), p. 6.

Jean Leymarie in Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1974, pp. 15, 119, no. 35.

Margit Rowell. Joan Mirò: Peinture=poésie. [Paris], 1976, p. 185 n. 24.

Pierre Georgel in Dessins de Miró provenant de l'atelier de l'artiste et de la Fondation Joan Miró de Barcelone. Exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, 1978, p. 35, no. 49 (study for the painting).

Charles W. Millard. Miró: Selected Paintings. Exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, 1980, p. 23.

Barbara Rose. Miró in America. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Houston, 1982, pp. 25, 136–37, describes the flaming heart as a symbol of divine love and the ladder as extending between heaven and earth; interprets the raised hand and silhouetted head against a blue background, together with the letter "M" inscribed in the palm of the hand, as the artist "depicting himself as the Savior and, in the form of a potato, the food of poor people" .

Margit Rowell. The Captured Imagination: Drawings by Joan Miró from the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. New York, 1987, p. 25, no. 64 (study for the painting).

Sabine Rewald in Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 183–85, 307, ill. (color and bw), dates it Paris, summer 1928.

William S. Lieberman in Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, frontispiece (color), fig. 3 (color, installation photo).

Jacques Dupin in Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 49.

Dawn Ades in Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 42, notes its relationship to the Dutch Interiors series.

Georges Raillard. Miró. Paris, 1989, p. 26.

Harry Bellet in Joan Miró: Rétrospective de l'œuvre peint. Ed. Jean-Louis Prat. Exh. cat., Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Paris, 1990, pp. 82–83, 201, no. 35, ill. (color), surmises that the potato is depicted as one of the internal organs of the "grande femme blanche".

Anne Umland. "Joan Miró's 'Collage' of Summer 1929: 'La Peinture au défi'?" Studies in Modern Art 2: Essays on Assemblage. New York, 1992, pp. 48, 61, 67 n. 4, fig. 20, notes that the oval shapes in the lower torso of the figure reappear in a collage of 1929 (Collection Krystyna Gmurzynska-Bscher, Cologne) and an untitled painting of 1930 (Menil Collection, Houston; DL 1999, no. 321).

Carolyn Lanchner. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1993, pp. 50–53, fig. 52 and ill. p. 166 (color), dates it Montroig, July–December 1928; finds correlation between the shape of the potato-figure's head and the triangular shape to its left with similar elements in the collage "Spanish Dancer" (1928; private collection; Ref. Dupin 1962, no. 243).

Anne Umland in Carolyn Lanchner. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1993, pp. 326–27, 353 nn. 320, 329, 332, 353, states that Miró brought his recent paintings, including this one, to Paris by December 26, 1928; notes that Miró told Dupin that this painting and "Still Life with Lamp" (private collection; DL 1999, no. 307) were executed following the three Dutch Interiors.

Lilian Tone in Carolyn Lanchner. Joan Miró. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1993, pp. 392–93, no. 80, ill.

Pere Gimferrer. The Roots of Miró. Barcelona, 1993, pp. 130, 139, 141, 353, no. 414, fig. 249 (color), reproduces two sketches for this painting in the Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, one for the triangular knife shape in the upper left (FJM no. 4349) and the other a more complete rendering of the final composition (FJM no. 813a).

Judith H. Dobrzynski. "20th Century Art Treasures Are Left to Met." New York Times (May 6, 1998), p. B6, ill.

William S. Lieberman. "Donation Gelman: l'École de Paris au Metropolitan." Connaissance des arts no. 554 (October 1998), p. 106, fig. 7 (color).

Jacques Dupin and Ariane Lelong-Mainaud. Joan Miró: Catalogue raisonné. Paintings. Vol. 1, 1908–1930. [Paris], 1999, p. 227, no. 308, ill. (color).

Sabine Rewald in "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1999–2000." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 58 (Fall 2000), pp. 56–57, ill. (color) and front cover (color), notes that it is fourth in the Dutch Interiors sequence, but is not based on any particular seventeenth-century picture.

William S. Lieberman in Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 2002, pp. 93, 117, 167, no. 57, ill. (color), dates it fall 1928.

Jeffrey Price. "The Dialectical Potato: Potato in Art, Art in Potato." Art Criticism 18, no. 2 (2003), pp. 71–72.

Agnès de la Beaumelle in Joan Miró, 1917–1934. Ed. Agnès de la Beaumelle. Exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, 2004, pp. 338, 341, 348, 350, ill. p. 371.

Rémi Labrusse. Miró: Un feu dans les ruines. Paris, 2004, pp. 187, 303 n. 43.

M. J. Balsach. Joan Miró: Cosmogonies d'un món originari (1918–1939). Barcelona, 2007, pp. 170–71, 267, fig. 13 (color), compares it to Rembrandt's "Old Woman Praying (Rembrandt's Mother Praying)" (1629–30; Residenzgalerie Salzburg).

Anne Umland. Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927–1937. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 2008, pp. 46–47, 54, 221 n. 11, p. 222 nn. 11, 23, p. 233, colorpl. 16, cites a November 7, 1927 letter from Miró to Loeb in which the artist mentions plans to make constructions that winter before his trip to Holland and adds "'I have to tell you that I look at real things with increasing love—the carbide lamp, potatoes'" as evidence that this picture was conceived in conjunction with Miró's collage-constructions; elaborates on its connection to the collage "Spanish Dancer" (private collection), completed in the spring of 1928 [see Ref. Lanchner 1993], suggesting the two "might share a common moment of conception or origin"; notes that the word "femme" written on a sketch for this painting (Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, no. 4349) may indicate that it was conceived "in tandem" with a painting of a woman.

Jim Coddington in Anne Umland. Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927–1937. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 2008, pp. 18, 24, 27 n. 21.

Charles Palermo. Fixed Ecstasy: Joan Miró in the 1920s. University Park, 2008, pp. 130–32, 175–77, 228 nn. 21, 24, fig. 47 (color).

Tomàs Llorens. Miró: Earth. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2008, p. 91.

Joan Ainaud de Lasarte et al., ed. Epistolari Català Joan Miró: 1911–1945. Vol. 1, Barcelona, 2009, pp. 369–70.

Panda de Haan and Ludo van Halem. "Miró in Holland: The Dutch Interiors (1928)." Rijksmuseum Bulletin 58 (2010)/ 3 (2010), pp. 216, 228.

Karen Wilkin. "Miró's 'Dutch Interiors'." New Criterion 29 (November 2010), p. 44.

Jacques Dupin. Miró. [1st ed., 1993]. Paris, 2012, pp. 141, 144, fig. 149 (color) and. ill. front cover (color detail).



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