Joan Miro The ladder of escape Tate Modern exhibition banner

Room 7

Despite the uncertainty of the Phoney War, Miró began one of his most famous and beautiful series, The Constellations, at Varengeville in January 1940. They were inscribed with specific dates, allowing us to reconstruct the sequence and establish the chain of linked compositions. Indeed, once complete and ready for exhibition, Miró requested that they were displayed following this dating. Though they were painted on paper and small in size, Miró envisaged that they would ‘give the impression of large frescoes’.

The first ten Constellations, beginning with Sunrise and The Escape Ladder, were completed in the first half of 1940. Then, in May 1940, as the German army swept through the Low Countries and prepared to invade France, Miró and his family faced the choice between further exile or return to Spain. Despite his staunch support for the Spanish Republic he chose to return home and live in ‘internal exile’ with his wife’s family in Mallorca, where he resumed the Constellations to make a further ten complex, densely packed paintings. The final three in the series, bringing the total to twenty-three, were completed on Miró’s return to Mont-roig in 1941. There he also worked on drawings for the Barcelona Series that share much of the same imagery.