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    Sale 2166

    Impressionist and Modern Works on Paper

    7 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 141

    Joan Miro (1893-1983)

    Femmes dans la nuit

    Price Realised  


    Joan Miro (1893-1983)
    Femmes dans la nuit
    signed 'Joan Miró' (lower right); signed again, titled, inscribed and dated 'Miró Femmes dans la nuit Barcelone, 24-12-1942' (on the reverse)
    pastel, watercolor, brush and black ink and pencil on paper
    25 3/8 x 18 5/8 in. (64.5 x 47.3 cm.)
    Executed in Barcelona, 24 December 1942

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    Contact the department

    Jacques Dupin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

    Miró completed the twenty-third and last of his landmark series of gouaches on paper he had come to call the Constellations at his family home in Montroig, Catalonia, on 12 September 1941. He executed the present work during the following year, as he settled down into a new sequence of exploratory and experimental works executed in both Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona. He hoped to put behind him the anxieties and tribulations of the past two years, in which he and his family had undertaken a veritable odyssey to reach the safe haven of home, as Europe descended into darkness and hopelessness all around him.

    Miró moved to Palma de Mallorca, in November 1941, a safe-haven where his wife Pilar's parents lived, and within a few weeks he commenced a new group of works on paper. Miró wrote to his friend E.C. Ricart on 15 February 1942: "I considered it convenient for me to spend some time here in Palma I spend almost all of my time working I see almost no one, and in this way escape without being engulfed by the terrible tragedy of the entire world" (quoted in C. Lanchner, Miró, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993, p. 336). He did not paint in oil on canvas, and would not do so with any regularity until 1944. Miró found that working on paper best suited his nomadic and "furtive" existence, and besides, canvas was hard to come by and expensive to purchase. Moreover, the visionary Constellations had provided Miró with a vast reservoir of visual imagery, and they had opened up to him a wide range of techniques that he needed to mull over and carry forward, without mechanically repeating the actual look of this soon-to-become-celebrated series, which were first exhibited in New York in 1945, a few months before the end of the war in Europe. Jacques Dupin has described this burst of renewed activity:

    In 1942 [the Constellations] were followed by a large number of watercolors, gouaches and drawings, characterized by freedom of invention and a marvelous effortlessness. In this evolution of his art, which was to end in the creation of his definitive style, renewed contact with Spain after five years of absence--with Majorca most especially--was doubtless crucial. They are explorations undertaken with no preconceived idea--effervescent creations in which the artist perfected a vast repertory of forms, signs, and formulas, bringing into play all the materials and instruments compatible with paper. The object of all these explorations is to determine the relationship between drawing and the materials, the relationship between line and space (in Miró, Paris, 2004, pp. 257-260).

    Miró executed Femmes dans la nuit, a quintessentially symbolic and teeming scene replete with erotic imagery and playful figures underneath the moon, at the very height of this new rush of creativity, after he had moved back to Barcelona at the end of 1942. Miró discussed this buoyant and optimistic period in his career:

    In the various paintings I have done since my return from Palma to Barcelona there have always been three stages--first, the suggestion, usually the material; second, the conscious organization of these forms; and third, the compositional enrichment. Forms take reality for me as I work. In other words, rather than setting out to paint something, I begin painting and as I paint the picture begins to assert itself. The form becomes a sign for a woman or a bird as I work. Even a few casual wipes of my brush in cleaning may suggest the beginning of a picture. The second stage, however is carefully calculated. The first stage is free, unconscious; but after that the picture is controlled throughout, in keeping with that desire for disciplined work I have always felt from the beginning. The Catalan character is not like that of Málaga or other parts of Spain. It is very much down-to-earth. We Catalans believe you must always plant your feet firmly on the ground if you want to be able to jump up in the air. The fact that I come down to earth from time to time makes it possible for me to jump all the higher (quoted in J.J. Sweeney, "Comment and Interview," Partisan Review, New York, February 1948).


    Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
    Mrs. Hilda Sutton (acquired from the above, January 1958).
    Private collection (by descent from the above, until 1993).

    Saleroom Notice

    Jacques Dupin has confirmed the authenticity of this work.


    London, Helly Nahmad Gallerie, Joan Miró- a retrospective, October 1999-January 2000, no. 20 (illustrated in color, p. 30).