In the 1940s, Joan Miró, already one of the towering figures of 20th century Modernism, approached his art with a renewed vigor and intensity. By this time, "at a mountain peak of accomplishment, he could look back around him...he took stock of his forms, meditated on ways to reanimate them, restore their mobility, preserve their imperfections (without which there is no life)" (J. Dupin, 1961, op. cit., p. 371).
Unlike many artists who left Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War, Miró remained in Spain, making his home in Barcelona with occasional trips to his family's farm in the countryside of Montroig. Bolstered by these familiar surroundings, he began painting again in earnest and experimented with a variety of materials. He worked on a series of gouaches, known collectively as the Constellations, during 1940-1941. These paintings, considered his most seminal and pioneering works, are remarkable in Miró's oeuvre for their modest size, condensed pictorial elements and luminous surfaces. In 1941, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held the first Miró retrospective, which received critical acclaim and bolstered his international renown.
For the next two years, Miró worked primarily on paper and when he decided to return to canvas, he took a novel approach to his materials. Between 1944 and 1945, he executed approximately forty spectacular paintings on unstretched pieces of burlap or unprimed canvas, including the present work. Dupin discusses the significance of these small canvases in the artist's oeuvre:
[In 1944], in the climate of spontaneous creation, Miró began to paint on irregularly shaped pieces of unprimed canvas, mostly with irregular textures and frayed edges. The artist's imagination roams freely on them, and he improvises with much greater ease and casualness in these works. The absence of the easel seems to have freed him from the usual constraints. We have counted forty paintings of this kind in 1944 and 1945, which are very little known, though they are of the best vintage...they show an abundance of figures and signs, and especially lively animation, and a ferocious humor which they share with some sheets from 1942 (in Miró, 1993, pp. 265-266).
Drawing from his innovative pictorial vocabulary, which he distilled and perfected in the Constellations series prior, in the present work Miró purposefully arranges biomorphic and cosmological forms in richly colored media against a highly-textured support to create a dense, fantastical and complex composition.
(fig. 1) Photograph of Joan Miró, 1945.