Femmes, oiseau, étoiles was executed in 1942, at a time when Miró was rapidly gaining widespread international acclaim. Populated with highly stylized and abstracted figures, the present work utilizes the vocabulary of signs developed a few years earlier in his celebrated Constellations series. Writing about Miró's production of 1942 and 1943, which consisted almost exclusively of works on paper, Jacques Dupin comments: “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. These works permit us to follow the alchemist at work, for errors and oversights are found side by side with the most unexpected triumphs and happy spontaneous discoveries. The object of all these explorations is to determine the relationship between drawing and the materials, the relationship between line and space. The artist is not so much interested in expressing something with appropriate technique, as in making the material express itself in its own way. Successively, on the same sheet, black pencil and India ink, watercolor and pastel, gouache and thinned oil paint, colored crayons...are employed, and their contrasts and similarities exploited to the full, and not infrequently exploited beyond their capacities” (Jacques Dupin, Joan Miró, Life and Work, London, 1962, p. 372).
The present work exemplifies the expressive power of images, even though they bear no faithful resemblance to the natural world. Miró is solely reliant upon the pictorial lexicon of signs and symbols that he developed over the years. A technique of primary importance in this painting is Miró’s expressive and exquisite use of line. Overall, his remarkable visual vocabulary strikes a perfect balance between abstraction and image-signs. His pictures from the mid-1940s are characterized by a sense of energy and movement; there is never a sense of stasis. Moreover, each work is the result of active and ongoing improvisation that renders a precise interpretation impossible. In fact, it was these compositions from the mid-1940s that would inspire the creative production of the Abstract Expressionist artists in New York. A few years after he executed this work, the artist offered creative advice to young painters, and his comments are an insight into the underlying motivations that inspired the present work: “He who wants to really achieve something has to flee from things that are easy and pay no attention to…artistic bureaucracy, which is completely lacking in spiritual concerns. What is more absurd than killing yourself to copy a highlight on a bottle? If that was all painting was about, it wouldn’t be worth the effort” (quoted in Margit Rowell, Joan Miró, Selected Writings and Interviews, Boston, 1986, p. 226).
Joan Miró, Femme, oiseau, étoile, 1942, pencil, pastel and gouache on paper, sold: Sotheby’s, New York, November 14, 2017, lot 16 for $3,495,000