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Miró believed that ambiguity was essential to the poetic effect of his work. Accordingly, he deliberately left the identity of the shapes in this painting unclear. Soon after its completion he compared the central black shape to both a cloud and a whale. However, preliminary sketches show that the composition was derived from an arrow drawn on an envelope by Alexander Calder, the friend of the title. As one commentator has remarked, the work as a whole became a ‘meditation on communication’.

July 2008