Peinture sur fond blanc is one of the series of sixteen paintings on white grounds that formed the culmination of Miró's so-called "dream paintings" from 1925-27. In 1927 Miró was living in the midst of the Surrealist community of Montmartre in a studio in the rue Blomet that adjoined that of his close friend Andre Masson. Influenced by his Surrealist friends into experimenting with the automatism, chance effects and dream illusions that they championed, Miró became increasingly bold and inventive in his use of imaginary and hallucinatory images which a state of hunger often brought into his mind. "I'd go home in the evenings" he recalled, "to my studio in the rue Blomet, I'd go to bed, I hadn't always eaten, I saw things, I noted them in notebooks. I saw shapes in the cracks in the walls, in the ceiling, especially the ceiling" (J. Miró, Carnets Catalans: dessins et textes inédits, Geneva, 1976, p. 72).
By 1926, as Miró recalled, "the signs of an imaginary writing appeared in my work. I painted without premeditation, as if under the influence of a dream. I combined reality and mystery in a space that had been set free. I owed this lighthearted atmosphere to the influence of Dada... Later a deepening sense of the marvellous led me to the notion of the fantastic. I was no longer subjected to dream-dictation, I created my dreams through my paintings... I escaped into the absolute of nature. I wanted my spots to seem to open to the magnetic appeal of the void. I was very interested in the void, in perfect emptiness. I put it into my pale and scumbled grounds, and my linear gestures on top were the signs of my dream progression" (M. Rowell (ed.), Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, pp. 264-5).
This preoccupation with the void led in 1927 to the series of paintings on white grounds that became the fullest expression of this particular artistic direction. Throughout the winter of that year Miró confined himself to his studio to devote all his energy to his work. Wanting to give his work what he called "an astral quality" he created paintings full of seemingly floating images that "no longer showed the pull of gravity" but floated like calligraphic ciphers on the infinite white backgrounds. The white ground paintings represented a meeting of night and day, of the void and the human imagination. To symbolise this fact Miró often mixed powdered silver and gold - archetypal symbols of the sun and moon - into the constitution of the white ground.
In Peinture sur fond blanc, the linear motifs that Miró has developed from their hallucinogenic prompts in the cracks on his ceiling, are among the most figurative of the entire series. Seeming like a collection of ciphers they hint at a secret language. Among the more clearly recognisable images are a series of three burning yellow flames and the profile of a head. This profile, with its red nose, is, in one form or another, a recurring motif in Miró's art of this period, being constantly reworked and refined in a series of important paintings into an increasingly simple linear form. Schismatic, this seemingly random collation of febrile pictorial motifs is united into a whole through the simplicity of the way in which each form is rendered. Each form resonates with and against the other in what is simultaneously both a figurative and abstract pictorial language. It is in these white ground paintings that the simplistic logic of Miró's painting reaches its purest form. Reaching back through the inspiration of folk art to the art of prehistory, Miró's elemental and poetic style eloquently articulates Breton's observation that "the eye exists in a wild state".
Miró always remained somewhat apart from his fellow Surrealists; although living in the midst of the furore of Surrealist debate, he himself refused to intellectualize his art, preferring to remain stubbornly fixed to the rooted strength of his own inner voice. Like a child, he followed this voice diligently and faithfully even though it led him on a path to the furthest boundaries of painting. Breton believed that as a man, he suffered from "a certain arrestment of his personality at an infantile stage", but at the same time he recognised that in spite of this or perhaps because of it, "he may be looked upon as the most Surrealist among us" (A. Breton, Surrealism and Painting, New York, 1945, p. 68).