At once engaging and perplexing, Joan Miró's Dog Barking at the Moon exemplifies the Spanish artist's sophisticated blend of pictorial wit and abstraction. Like many of the works that the artist painted in Paris, this piece registers Miró's memories of his native Catalan landscape, which remained the emotional center and source of his imagery for much of his life. The work's genesis can be found in a preparatory sketch showing the moon rejecting a dog's plaintive yelps with the phrase "You know, I don't give a damn," written in Catalan. Although these words were excluded from the finished painting, their meaning is conveyed through the vacant space between the few pictorial elements that compose this stark yet whimsical image of frustrated longing and nocturnal isolation. Against the simple background of the brown earth and black night sky, Miró has painted a colorful dog and moon, and a ladder that stretches across the meandering horizon line and recedes into the sky, perhaps suggesting the dream of escape. This remarkable combination of earthiness, mysticism, and humor marks Miró's successful merging of international artistic preoccupations with an emphatically regional outlook to arrive at his distinctively personal and deeply poetic sensibility.
Michael R. Taylor, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 180