One hundred and eighty eight

The Beautiful Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers

1941 by Joan Miró
MoMA, NYC

This painting is one of Miró’s constellation series, a set of paintings executed across the years 1940-41, all articulated through this thoughtful style of adjoined shapes scattered across the canvas like stars. Immediately distinctive and different to his previous work, see the soft curved shapes of postcard thirty-four, the paintings in this series tie themselves inextricably to one another. They seem a fragmentation of Miró’s fantastical thoughts, a distillation, leaving only shapes and hints, as oil floating in globules on the surface of water. Of course Miró joins these together with the thin thread-like lines that curve and create throughout the composition, threading shapes like beads or pausing to swell into character. The black and block-like colour of these shapes and lines float on a hazy background of uncertainty: soft and sponged with glimmers of colour, it floats as clouds of imagination behind these concrete accumulations of thought. This haziness also possesses a light, a glowing and fading, that adds a depth to the flat articulation of composition. Poetic, the shapes materialise across the canvas almost like words and letters, or music, as a succession of notes. They are mystical, a different language, but obviously fuelled with emotion and this requires no translation, especially alongside our recognition of the clues Miró leaves: an eye, two feet, the grinning expression of a face. Miró also does the almost impossible, by leaving us with a title that is as poetic and intriguing than the piece itself; it does not dictate to us or direct us to one way of seeing, as so many do, but embellish an already thought provoking piece with imaginative triggers of what the ‘unknown’ might be.

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