Femme, oiseau, étoile (Homenatge a Pablo Picasso) (Woman, Bird and Star [Homage to Picasso])

Joan Miró

Barcelona, Spain, 1893 - Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 1983
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    245 x 170 cm
  • Category: 
  • Entry date: 
  • Observations: 
    Entry date: 1988 (from the redistribution of the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo [MEAC] collection)
  • Register number: 

Pablo Picasso, who Joan Miró insisted was a fascinating man upon his death, was an artistic model for the Catalan painter right from the beginning of his career, which began with a revision of Cubist figures, until the later years, when both nurtured a regular and brotherly friendship. Picasso also admired the work of the Barcelona artist, who was 12 years his junior and, as André Breton recalled, it was his interest in Miró’s paintings that brought him closer to Surrealism. They both participated in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition of 1937, creating two large mural paintings defending the legitimacy of the regime of the Republic, Picasso’s Guernica and Miró’s now lost El Segador (Paysan catalan en révolte) (The Reaper [Catalan Peasant in Revolt]), which from the 1950s became models for the Spanish artists who lived under the dictatorship.

After a drawn-out execution, Joan Miró completed this large canvas on the day of his friend’s death, and on the back it includes a subtitle in Catalan, the language they both spoke with one another. Femme, oiseau, étoile (Homenatge a Pablo Picasso) (Woman, Bird, Star [Homage to Picasso], 1966-1973) is a painting in which references to figurative art are evident and sharply appear in the figure outlined on a white background, also standing out in the contrast of the planes of colour, which act as an independent and not mimetic component of the work.The composition focuses on the three essential figures of Miró’s symbolism: the woman, which refers to the link of human beings and their roots in the land, together with the bird and the star that symbolise poetic and spiritual attraction, and which are shown on either side of the central figure.

Moreover, it is defined by the force of the white background, which is treated with all the richness and complexity that the quality of the material and the skill of its execution permit. On this bright background the great female figure emerges, with broad shapes akin to Neolithic sculptures and constructed as a giant collage of flat colours. As William Rubin said when referring to Femme aux trois cheveux encerclés doiseaux dans la nuit (Woman with Three Hairs Surrounded by Birds in the Night, 1972), with which this painting forms a pair, it used the colour palette of the traditional whistlers from Mallorca or Siurells. The contrast between the linear signs of the star, hair and headdress compared to the full, colourful and flat shapes of the woman and the bird perched on her, establishing a hybrid personage, characterise this great emblematic composition which is one of Miró’s and the Museum collection’s last works.

Carmen Fernández Aparicio