Personnages dans la nuit invokes both the playful risk-taking attitude of Miró's Surrealist works from the 1930s and the totemic quality characteristic of the artist’s work from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Miró's sculptures were the crowning achievement of his late career. It was not until the 1940s, while he was living in Palma, Montroig and Barcelona, that he considered sculpting large free-standing forms; Miró’s curiosity with sculpture, however, dates back to his teenage years when he was an art student at the Escola d’Art in Barcelona.
In the present work, the artist includes his signature star motif, which he incised prominently into the upper right quadrant of the sculpture. This feature of Personnages dans la nuit shares stylistic and thematic similarities with Miró’s other cosmically themed works. In 1970, Miró explained that his sculpture has to do with the “unlikely marriage of recognizable forms” (quoted in D. Swanson, “The Artist's Comments,” Miró Sculptures, exh. cat., Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1971, n.p.). In this sculpture, Miró pairs his celestial theme with a whimsical bird-like form that recalls the biomorphic creatures from his celebrated series of Constellations painted in 1940-1941. This creature fits within Miró’s belief, as expressed in his Working Notes, 1941-1942: “it is in sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional…unlike the paintings that are turned facing the wall or images done on a flat surface, the sculptures must resemble living monsters who live in the studio - a world apart” (Miró quoted in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró, Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 175).
Jacques Dupin, Miró's close friend and biographer, initially looked upon the artist's sculptures as works created in conjunction with his better known achievements in painting. However, Dupin subsequently revised this view in light of the scope and scale of the artist's later work in bronze: “The sculptures from the last two decades of Miró's productive life took on a broad place and force. For Miró, sculpture became an intrinsic adventure, an important means of expression that competed with the canvas and sheet of paper - the domains and artistic spaces proper to Miró - without ever simply being a mere derivative or deviation from painting” (Miró, Barcelona, 2004, pp. 361 and 367). Dupin believed that sculpture offered Miró direct contact with an independent reality, presences that exist by their own logic. Personnages dans la nuit exemplifies this period in which Miró placed sculpture at the forefront of his practice.
(fig. 1) Joan Miró, Double-Sided Monolith, 1956. Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona.