In June 1940, as the German armies entered Paris and occupied the northern part of the country, Miró fled France with his wife and daughter for his native Spain. Dividing their time between Palma, Mallorca, and Montroig, the artist spent these years in relative solitude. As he later explained to James Johnson Sweeney, “After lunch each day, I would go to the cathedral to listen to the organ rehearsal. I would sit there in that empty Gothic interior, daydreaming, conjuring up forms. The light poured into the gloom through the stained-glass windows in an orange flame. The cathedral seemed always empty at those hours. The organ music and the light filtering through the stained-glass windows to the interior gloom suggested forms to me. I saw practically no one all those months. But I was enormously enriched during this period of solitude” (quoted in J.J. Sweeney, “Joan Miró, Comment and Interview,” Partisan Review, February 1948, p. 210).
At this time, Miró embarked upon a new series of works on paper, variations on the theme of Woman-Bird-Star, which are characterized by a freedom of invention. In Au clair de lune, a single line of rich India ink dances down the sheet. The purity of the line is juxtaposed with vaporous orbs of powdered pastels and gouache. This contrast between careful delineation and blurred, phosphorescent effects is musical and poetic, a duet of precision and atmosphere created at a time of deep contemplation for the artist. It elicits the same meditative response today.
Jacques Dupin has commented on the importance of this series of early 1940s works on paper: “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 materials, the relationship between line and space (Miró, Paris, 2004, pp. 257-260).
(fig. 1) The artist in his studio in 1945.