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Constellation: Toward the Rainbow

Joan Miró (Spanish, Barcelona 1893–1983 Palma de Mallorca)

Gouache and oil wash on paper
18 x 15in. (45.7 x 38.1cm) 35 7/8 x 25 1/4 x 1 1/4 in. (91.1 x 64.1 x 3.2 cm) (Frame)
Credit Line:
Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    In 1919, Joan Miró left his native country of Spain for France, where, along with fellow Spaniard Salvador Dalí, he became one of the pioneers of Surrealism. Inspired by the movement's engagement with psychology and poetic play with form, Miró developed a dreamlike style based on whimsical allusions to reality and lyrical, fancifully colored compositions. In May 1940, after the invading German troops disturbed Miró's quiet life in Varengeville, a village on the northern coast of France, he returned to Spain. In June he settled in the town of Palma de Mallorca, where he was to remain until the summer of 1941. In Palma, Miró resumed work on his Constellations series, which he had abandoned when he left Varengeville. "Toward the Rainbow" is the fifteenth in a series of twenty-three gouaches on paper that were produced over twenty-one months from January 1940 to September 1941. Characteristic of the works begun at the end of his stay in France and those painted in Spain, the entire sheet of paper is covered with hourglass shapes and a multitude of forms suggesting stars, eyes, circles, triangles, and crescents that are linked by thin black lines to evoke a fantastical wrought-iron screen or perhaps a magical constellation in the cosmos. Each picture took about a month to complete.

    Much has been written about these Constellations, and Miró often referred to them himself. Their consistent strength, vivid colors, gaeity, and poetry provide a striking contrast with the dark period in which they were created. In fact, these gouaches seem to represent the artist's escape from the terrors of World War II. Looking back on the period in 1948, Miró told an interviewer that in France in 1939 "a new stage in my work began which had its source in music and nature. It was about the time that the war broke out. I felt a deep desire to escape. I closed myself within myself purposely. The night, music, and the stars began to play a major role in suggesting my paintings."

  • Exhibition History

    New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, December 12, 1989 - April 1, 1990. London,England: Royal Academy, April 19 - July 15, 1990. "Gelman Collection" (illus. in color, p. 223, discussed pp. 222 -225).

    Martigny, Suisse: Foundation Pierre Gianadda, 18 juin-1 novembre 1994. ¦de Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman¦, Rédaction du catalogue: William S. Lieberman, Auteur du catalogue: Sabine Rewald, Textes de: Dawn Ades, John Ashbery, Jacques Dupin, John Golding, Lawrence Gowing, William S. Lieberman, Philippe de Montebello, Pierre Schneider et Gary Tinterow. p. 247 (illus. in color).

    Mexico: Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, February 12 - May 24, 1998. ¦Joan Miro: Works from the Centre Georges Pompidou Collection¦ Pg. 163, illus. in color.

    London: Tate Modern, April 14 - September 11, 2011; Fundació Joan Miró, October 13, 2011 - March 25, 2012; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., May 6 - August 12, 2012, Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History