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Director’s Lecture Series 2016–2017, Lecture 2: Joán Miró’s Harlequin’s Carnival, 1924–25

By Dr. Joe Lin-Hill, Deputy Director

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

6:30 pm - 8 pm EDT

Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893–1983). Carnaval d'Arlequin (Carnival of Harlequin), 1924–25. Oil on canvas, 26 x 36 5/8 inches (66 x 93 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1940 (RCA1940:8). © Successió Miró S.L. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

5:30–6:30 pm, Reception
6:30–7:30 pm, Lecture
7:30–8 pm, Questions & Conversation

$85 general admission 
$65 for Members (FREE for Members at the Andy Warhol Circle and higher)
$35 for students (with valid student ID)
Series Tickets and Scholarships


The Harlequin was a common theater character who was usually the victim of unrequited love and frequently played the guitar. In this painting he is a guitar, with the diamond-patterned shirt associated with the character, along with other traditional features like the mustache, beard, admiral’s hat, and pipe. The painting may refer to Mardi Gras, the Catholic celebration that begins the fasting of Lent, but it is certainly an idiosyncratic rendition of a carnival scene. Much of Miró’s thinking about the work is suggested in his following statement on its creation:

“I tried to capture the hallucinations that my hunger produced in me. It’s not that I painted what I saw in my dreams, as Breton and his lot predicated in those days, but that hunger provoked in me a sort of trance . . . . After long meditation on what I proposed to do, I began to paint, and as I painted I introduced all the changes I believed to be appropriate. I recognize that I was very interested in [the fifteenth-century painter] Hieronymus Bosch, but I wasn’t thinking of him when I was working on the ‘Carnival.’ In the canvas certain elements already appear that will be repeated later in other works: the ladder, an element of flight and evasion, but also of elevation; animals and, above all, insects, which I have always found very interesting; the dark sphere that appears to the right is a representation of the globe, because in those days I was obsessed with one idea: ‘I must conquer the world!’”

A joyous painting with all kinds of hybrid creatures playing, singing, dancing, and celebrating, Harlequin’s Carnival is categorically recognized as among Miró’s greatest works.

About the 2016-2017 Director's Lecture Series 

This year’s Director’s Lecture Series presents the story of six timely—and timeless—works of art that help define the continuing greatness of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The series is designed by Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén and presented by Dr. Sirén, Deputy Director Dr. Joe Lin-Hill, and Senior Curator Dr. Cathleen Chaffee. Learn More and View Series Schedule

Program Sponsors

The Director's Lecture Series is made possible, in part, through the generous support of HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Additional support has been provided by WSF Industries, Inc.