Miró, his wife Pilar and their daughter fled France in June 1940 as the German armies entered Paris and occupied the northern part of the country. They arrived in Palma Mallorca the following month. His wife had family there; the artist wanted to avoid the attention of the fascist dictator Franco's police. When it appeared safe, he visited Barcelona and his family home in Montroig. While staying in Palma he completed the final three gouaches in his celebrated series of Constellations in July-September 1941. He then commenced a new group of works on paper. Jacques Dupin has written:
"In 1942 [the Constellations] were followed by a large number of watercolors, gouaches and drawings, characterized by freedom of invention and a marvelous effortlessness. In this evolution of his art, which was to end in the creation of his definitive style, renewed contact with Spain after five years of absence--with Majorca most especially--was doubtless crucial.
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 the materials, the relationship between line and space" (in Miró, Paris, 2004, pp. 257-260).
Femmes, oiseaux, étoiles, devant le disque solaire was executed at the very height of this remarkable period of experimentation. In his Working Notes, 1941-1942, which he began jotting down in a journal at Montroig in July 1941, Miró planned the techniques and some of the pictorial ideas that he employed shortly thereafter in the creation of the present work:
"On a large sheet of yellow pastel paper with this drawing on the top: sandpaper part of the paper to reveal the black underground and then paste the pink blotting paper I have in Palma over it; put a little case-arti [a white primer] around it and make a drawing with India ink on the damp blotting paper; that will give the impression of magic and force.-use colored and lead pencils frequently in the grounds, applying them with a circular motion as in the drypoints...The forms in these pastels must be very simple...Treat the arms of certain figures as if they were leaves..." (reprinted in M. Rowell, ed. Joan Miró: Selected Writing and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 189).
The large sun and the pasted sheet of the pink blotting paper--a drawing within the drawing--dominate the composition. The sun's reflection illuminates the surface of the water and the figure in the smaller drawing; a sawtooth line represents a distant landfall. The three figures on the right side of the sheet are (from top to bottom) a bird, a woman and a child. The latter two may represent Miró's wife and daughter, as they gaze westward over the Mediterranean waters to the returning figure of the artist, perhaps a reference to a trip to Barcelona that Miró made in late February 1942 to visit his ailing mother. In July Miró and his family moved to Barcelona, where the artist set up a large studio and worked for many years, until he moved back to Palma in 1956.