Miró‘s Self-portrait (1919)

Joan Miro's Self-portrait (left) was painted in Spain on the eve of his departure for Paris where he met Picasso and to whom he later gave this painting. Its place in Picasso's collection (now in Musée Picasso in Paris) makes it comparable to Matisse's gift of his daughter's portrait to Picasso a few years earlier. It's an interesting picture but we will look at just one feature of it, the strange shading on his face. But, first, some background.

Click next thumbnail to continue


 




 

Captions for image(s) above:

Miró, Self-portrait (1919) Oil on canvas. Musée Picasso, Paris

Click image to enlarge.

Matisse's gift to Picasso, selected by Picasso, (left) shocks. As shown before, Matisse turned his daughter's hair into a phallus to express his mental fertility. It responds to his visual source for the painting, Velazquez's Infanta in the Louvre, whose own hair had been shaped into a paintbrush (right).1 The content is linked in that painters had associated brushes with phalluses since the Renaissance. Renoir said: "I paint with my dick."2

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Diagrammatic detail of Matisse's Portrait of Marguerite (1907) Oil on canvas. Musée Picasso, Paris
Right: Diagrammatic detail of Velazquez's Infanta Margarita (c.1655) Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris

Click image to enlarge.

Miró who has been called "a prehistoric poet" was from Barcelona, a region rich in caves.3 From the 1870's onwards rotund and fleshy "Venus" figurines were being discovered all across Europe, the Venus of Willendorf in 1908. Scholars at first thought they represented the Stone Age's idea of beauty, a concept now discredited. Still, Miró was fascinated by prehistoric art and "frequently [drew] upon ancient symbols and artifacts like the Venus of Willendorf, creating modern echoes of goddess imagery.." You should also know that Miró measured his art against Velazquez's.4

Click next thumbnail to continue
 

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Miró's Self-portrait (1919)

Click image to enlarge.

Is it coincidence that, like Matisse's and Velazquez's portraits, Miró's head also has a hidden form? Consider the artificial shading of his face, from his mouth to his hair (see diagram). There initially seems no reason for it but it is shaped like the large torso of a "Venus" figurine (right) with breasts above pointing in different directions. His lips are her vagina. It follows that Miró's eyes are inside her womb, her breasts above in his mind. This not only make sense but is in tune with the other art described on EPPH: the artist conceives himself (eyes in womb) as an immortal (goddess) whose fertile and androgynous mind (breasts) expresses fundamental truths (beauty) for all time.

Click next thumbnail to continue

Captions for image(s) above:

Top L: Detail of Miró's Self-portrait (1919)
Top R: 
Bottom: Diagram of Miró's Self-portrait

Click image to enlarge.

As an aside, Miró's method and his meaning is not unlike Rembrandt's in his engraving, Beggar in a High Cap as also revealed on EPPH.



 

Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of Rembrandt's Beggar in a High Cap, standing and leaning on a stick (c.1629)
Right: Greek, Torso of Aphrodite, a detail (c.60 BC) North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

1. See Simon Abrahams, "Velazquez's Infanta Margarita (1653)" (published Feb. 2015) and "Matisse's Marguerite (1906-7)" (published Feb. 2014).

2. In the Renaissance Bronzino also wrote poetry comparing his paintbrush to his penis. Maurice Brock, Bronzino (Paris: Flammarion) 2002, pp. 9-10

3. Marshall N. Price, the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum at Duke University, gave a talk in 2014 titled "Joan Miró: Prehistoric Poet". http://nasher.duke.edu/event/miro-exhibition-opening-event/ retrieved online 29th June 2015.

4. Tasha Brandstatter, "The Canvas of Joan Miró" on PULP, 7th May 2015, retrieved online 29th June 2015. Miró also told Matisse that he hoped his art would stand up against Velazquez's. Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting, 1927-1937 (Museum of Modern Art) 2008, pp. 215-6

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 27 Jun 2015. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.