Femmes dans le nuit is one a series of a small-scale paintings that mark Miró's return in 1944 to working in oil on canvas, after a hiatus of four years, during which he executed works on paper, ceramics and prints (see note to lot 298).
Miró completed his celebrated series of Constellations in September 1941. He realized that this series was his most intensely personal and technically virtuosic achievement to date. There was no time to rest, or turn formulaic, however, and as the war progressed, he was subject to new hardships, both emotional and financial. His response was to work and to explore new artistic possibilities. In August 1945, following the end of the war, Miró wrote a letter to the Paris dealer Pierre Loeb: "During these tragic years, I have continued to work every day, and this has helped me to keep my balance - my work has kept me on my feet; otherwise I would have gone under; it would have been a catastrophe" (in M. Rowell, ed., Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 197).
The watercolors, gouaches, drawings and mixed media works on paper that followed in 1942-1943 were, as Jacques Dupin has described, "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" (Miró, New York, 1993, p. 259). Miró knew that he was not merely marking time during this period, and understood that his efforts in other media did not imply that he might abandon painting, which had become a concern of his New York dealer Pierre Matisse. On 14 June 1944, Miró wrote to Matisse, "I work as always a lot; if I've made ceramics and lithographs, as this summer I am going to make sculpture, it is not to abandon painting on the contrary, it is to enrich it with new possibilities and to take it up anew with a new enthusiasm" (quoted in C. Lanchner, Joan Miró, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1993, p. 336).
There was, in fact, a discernable continuity in Miró's imagery as seen in the Constellations, which was transmitted via the ensuing works on paper, and then re-emerged in the new oil paintings. Miró claimed that the Constellations were inspired by staring at the sun's shimmering reflections on the water as he gazed out to sea. This accounts for the kaleidoscopic density of visual incident in these compositions. The underlying structure is based on drawing, however, a network consisting of a multitude of jostling linear figures, which Miró transformed into signs and symbols. Interpreting the figure through drawing was also the basis of his works on paper done in 1942-1943, and the Barcelona Series of lithographs executed in 1944. And, indeed, it is by means of the figure that Mirøa began to paint once again, with a new confidence and certainty. Dupin wrote that "Oil confers an authority, a decisiveness, and a clarity to canvas that modifies its structure and its spirit. The climate is a more relaxed one, and the figures have a sobriety that intensifies them" (op. cit., p. 264).