Joan Miró The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers (Le Bel oiseau déchiffrant l'inconnu au couple d'amoureux) (from the Constellation series) 1941

  • Not on view

This is one of a celebrated group of twenty-four drawings, collectively referred to as the Constellation series, which was executed during a period of personal crisis for Miró triggered by the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Trapped in France from 1936 to 1940, the artist embarked on these obsessively meticulous works on paper in an attempt to commune with nature and escape the tragedies of current events. Despite their modest formats, they represented the most important works of his career up to that time, a fact he quickly realized.

The first eleven works in the series were executed in Normandy between December 1939 and May 1940. Although the motifs throughout correspond to Miró's classic repertory, in the earlier works the washed grounds are more saturated, the motifs larger, and the compositions looser than in those that would follow. In the later thirteen works, executed in Palma de Mallorca in 1940–41, of which The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers is exemplary, the grounds are almost opalescent, and the familiar motifs are smaller and tightly woven into a continuous linear web. In its elusive poetry yet rigorous control, this work not only embodies Miró's artistic personality, but it also mirrors the luminous tracks of constellations in a clear night sky.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 186.
Gouache, oil wash, and charcoal on paper
18 x 15" (45.7 x 38.1 cm)
Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)
Object number
© 2024 Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Drawings and Prints

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Provenance Research Project

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Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York. Acquired from the artist, by 1945
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Pierre Matisse through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, January 1945

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