The German invasion of France had forced Miró and his family to flee France in 1940, and he found himself back in his beloved homeland.
Settling in the town of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Miró maintained a low profile in an effort to avoid the fascist dictator Ferdinand Franco's police--during the Spanish Civil War, the painter had made no secret of his allegiance to the ultimately defeated loyalist faction. During this self-imposed exile from the Parisian art scene and the horrors of war, Miró's painting continued to evolve. Having previously worked primarily in the medium of oil on canvas, upon his return to Spain he turned almost exclusively to the pursuit of creating works on paper. Using gouache, watercolor, pastel, India ink and a variety of other media, Miró executed works marked by great spontaneity, the iconography of which would revolt wildly against the dark climate of wartime Europe.
In 1940 and 1941, Miró produced the celebrated Constellations series, representing the culmination of the abstract tendencies visible in his earlier work. His childhood home of Montroig, where part of the series was executed, had long exerted an influence on the visual vocabulary of his work. Miró recalled with childlike fervor the stars, sun, moon, insects, and vegetation with which he had been surrounded during his formative years and included somewhat abstracted interpretations of these elements in his work throughout his career. These pure elements of rural existence increasingly made their way into the artist's compositions during the war years. The Constellations, with their gleeful representations of stars, humorous anthropomorphic forms, and bright, primary colors, manifest a certain escapism, an innocence and optimism amid the brutality of the age.
In its spontaneity and iconography, the present work certainly bears similarities with the Constellations series. As was his custom, in the present work Miró depicts a kind of dialogue between the two figures--in this case, two abstracted heads share a stylized body with jester-like feet. The surrounding forms which dance throughout the sheet--stars, spirals, eyes, geometric zigzags, and insect-like creatures--are outlined in black India ink, with bright splashes of gouache in primary colors inserted for visual effect. As we struggle to identify the individual elements of the composition in the context of Miró's unique lexicon, the cerebral effect is further enhanced by the presence of the green gouache in the upper portion of the sheet which almost appears to be legible. Of the post-Constellations works, Jacques Dupin has written:
...[the Constellations] were followed by a large number of watercolors, gouaches, pastels, and drawings, characterized by freedom of invention...a marvelous effortlessness. Scrupulous asceticism gives way to humor and childlike whimsicality. 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...The artist's sole concern was life for the living pulse and movement of life (in Miró, exh. cat., Barcelona, 1992, pp. 257 and 260).
Hommage d'amitié dates to 1947, by which time Miró had been granted his first major retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art (1941). Additionally, his American dealer Pierre Matisse had organized an exhibition at his gallery in 1945. Miró visited New York immediately following the war, spending time with his artist friends Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, and Yves Tanguy. He would ultimately return to Paris in 1948, influenced by the bright lights and incessant commotion of New York.
The present work bears a fascinating history, as it was given by Miró as a gift to Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp, the American wife of Pierre Matisse (she would later marry Marcel Duchamp in 1954). Its title and the inscription on the reverse--"Hommage d'amitié Teeny Matisse afectuellement"--pay homage to the friendship between the Spanish painter and the American dealer who championed his work across the Atlantic.