Executed in 1970, the enigmatic Projet d’illustration d’un livre reverberates with an almost magnetic energy, it’s unique mixture of bold, gestural mark-making and extreme minimalism showcasing the continued inventiveness of Joan Miró’s art throughout the latter stages of his career. Set against a vaporous background, a single streak of black paint travels across the page, appearing like an abbreviated piece of Japanese calligraphy or ancient script, whilst above a pair of amorphous white forms float against the open space of the void. Capturing a sense of the spontaneous, raw and direct outpouring of Miró’s imagination, Projet d’illustration d’un livre reflects the artist’s deliberate pursuit of a new simplicity and minimalism in his work during this period. ‘My desire,’ he stated in 1959, ‘is to attain a maximum intensity with a minimum of means. That is why my painting has gradually become more spare’ (quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 251).
Floating amidst a boundless, oneiric space, the composition of Projet d’illustration d’un livre is in some ways reminiscent of the monochrome grounds in the final iteration of Miró’s ‘dream’ paintings of the mid-1920s. In these semi-abstract compositions, whimsical signs and ciphers hovered amidst a seemingly limitless pictorial space, and the same effect is evident in the present work. It was this ability to convey tension, space and energy through the sparsest of marks and forms which lay at the heart of Miró’s genius, according to Alberto Giacometti: ‘Miró was synonymous with freedom – something more aerial, more liberated, lighter than anything I had seen before. In one sense he possessed absolute perfection. Miró could not put a dot on a sheet of paper without hitting square on the target. He was so truly a painter that it was enough for him to drop three spots of colour on the canvas, and it would come to life – it would be a painting’ (quoted in P. Schneider, ‘Miró’, in Horizon, no. 4, March 1959, pp. 70-81).