miro, self-portrait II, 1938


Joan Miro’s Self Portrait II is an oil painting on burlap that was created in 1938. Having no obvious focal point to the painting makes it different from any other work done by Miro. For example, The Potato had a woman that was directly in the middle of the painting, where she served her main purpose to watch over all her crops. Miro held on to his nature theme that appears in numerous paintings, though Self Portrait II dives into the more personal struggles of Joan Miro.

With a black background to the painting, Miro uses a basic color palette that consists of red/orange, yellow, and blue along with white detail. Going along with the basic colors are the simple geometric shapes that he paints such as stars, circles, and triangles. The stars are at the top left of the painting, which represents the night sky. The triangles that surround the circle could represent either a sun or flowers. The stars and suns express night and day. The brush strokes on the triangles are very loose and rugged compared to the rest of the painting which is very controlled. The combination of obvious sun and stars on this painting represent a stable  running  ecosystem. This ecosystem produces Miro’s next focal point of the painting, fish.

The construction of the fish resembles what we now know as Ichthys. I believe there is a biblical sense to this painting because of these fish and the way that he paints them. While there four total fish in this painting, one set is facing the right and the other set is facing downward. The set of fish that are facing to the right are almost all white while the fish that are going downward are a mix of blue and red. The way Miro positions these fish gives the painting a sense of movement, unlike The Potato. The Potato was still; all the different pieces of the painting were stationary and unmoving.

Miro stated, “I have withdrawn inside myself, and the more skeptical I have become about the things around me the closer I have become to God[1]”. Believing that Miro meant for this painting to be religious, the red and blue are used and connected by a white line in two different spots on the painting. The blue is viewed as heaven and red as hell. Although blue and red switch spots, one is on top and the other on bottom. I take that as if the white line is whatever religious connection people have on this earth and Miro himself not knowing if there is a true heaven or hell that we end up in. At the bottom right of the painting, there is a devil like figure that has horns protruding out of the skull and two arms that are controlling someone or something, which could be his representation of the devil with his influence he has on the world around us.

Although there are hidden messages that lie within this painting, I believe that Miro was representing the sun and stars to express that the world is ran by these. I believe he was mixing the two worlds of the sea and sky to show the connection between the two. Having this painting titled as Self Portrait II, Miro is also portraying religious personal issues such as being torn between God and the devil.

[1]  Miro to Ricart, correspondence of August 1917; translated in Margit Rowell, ed., Joan Miro: Selected Writings and Interviews (Boston, 1986), 50

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