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Joan Miró
1893 - 1983

Femme dans la nuit, 1972
Signed ‘Miró’ (lower right)
watercolor and wax crayon on paper
52 x 65 cm.


J. Dupin and A. Lelong-Mainaud, Joan Miró Catalogue Raisonné. Drawings. Vol III: 1960 -1972, Paris 2012, No. 2329, p. 311 (illustrated in color)


About the work


Femme dans la nuit

From the late 1930s onwards, the particular materials Miró used assumed an ever more pronounced role within his creative process, serving as points of departure for his fertile imagination. 'I provoke accidents', Miró explained, 'a form, a spot of colour in the beginning, it's a direct thing. It's the material that decides' (Miró, quoted in M. Rowell (ed.), Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews, London, 1987, p. 219).

This is particularly apparent in Femme dans la nuit where the creation acts like a realm teeming with life and visual incident, very much illustrative of the artist's core belief that a work of art 'must give birth to a world' (Miró, quoted in ibid., p. 251).

The figure of a woman depicted at night was a perennial theme of Miró's, the woman perhaps personifying the earth's fecundity, with the star and circles emblematic of the cosmos surrounding her. An upward-thrust governs the composition of the work with the schematically rendered woman appearing to emerge from the matrix of a sheet. This geometric division or compartmentalisation also features in other important works of the period, most notably in La Leçon de ski (1966) (D. & L. M. 1237; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Caracas). The relationships of the forms to one another in the work recall the artist's metamorphic understanding of life where, he expounded:

'forms give birth to other forms, constantly changing into something else. They become each other and in this way create the reality of a universe of signs and symbols in which figures pass from one realm to another, their feet touching the roots, becoming roots themselves as they disappear into the flowing hair of the constellations' (Miró, quoted in Ibid., p. 240). 

* Font: Sotheby’s


About the artist


Joan Miró

Joan Miró rejected the constraints of traditional painting, creating works “conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness,” as he once said. Widely considered one of the leading Surrealists, though never officially part of the group, Miró pioneered a wandering linear style of Automatism—a method of “random” drawing that attempted to express the inner workings of the human psyche. Miró used color and form in a symbolic rather than literal manner, his intricate compositions combining abstract elements with recurring motifs like birds, eyes, and the moon. “I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music,” he said. While he prized artistic freedom, Miró revered art history, basing a series of works on the Dutch Baroque interiors of Hendrick Sorgh and Jan Steen. In turn, Miró has inspired many artists—significantly Arshile Gorky, whose bold linear abstractions proved a foundational influence on Abstract Expressionism.