Joan MIRÓ
Stars in Snails' Sexes

Oil on canvas
129.5 x 97 cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen,
Dusseldorf

From Werner Schmalenbach, "Masterpieces of 20th-Century Art":

"Miró's almost monochrome picture Stars in Snails' Sexes...appears to be a direct realization of Breton's notions of psychic automatism and écriture automatique, the theory of artistic creation as a spontaneous process dictated by the workings of the unconscious mind. In art of this kind, however, it is difficult to distinguish between the unconscious and the conscious elements. The work of Miró has a nocturnal, hallucinatory, dream-like quality, but it also bears the mark of a keenly alert creative intelligence which makes use of the unconscious but does not allow itself to be controlled by it. Miró also accepted the Surrealist principle of chance, but refused to let it dominate his work. 'I throw down the gauntlet to chance,' he wrote: 'For example, I prepare the ground for a picture by cleaning my brush over the canvas. Spilling a little turpentine can also be helpful.' This, perhaps, is how he set about painting Stars in Snails' Sexes. On the brown, washed-out, blotted ground one sees a large, freely drawn red circle and a star with a comet's tail; the playfully poetic title étoiles en des sexes d'escargot is inscribed over a tangle of blue lines in the top left-hand corner. Miró referred to these pictures, which feature poems or words, or sometimes only single letters and numbers, as tableaux-poèmes."