In her own words...



One way to write a secret language is to employ familiar signs, obvious and unequivocal to the human eye. For this reason I chose a brilliant fidelity to the visual object as my method in painting Birthday. The result is a portrait of myself, precise and unmistakable to the onlooker. But what is a portrait? Is it mystery and revelation, conscious and unconscious, poetry and madness? Is it an angel, a demon, a hero, a child-eater, a ruin, a romantic, a monster, a whore? Is it a miracle or a poison? I believe that a portrait, particularly a self-portrait, should be somehow, all of these things and many more, recorded in a secret language clad in the honesty and innocence of paint.     — Dorothea Tanning, 1943



About this work

This statement accompanied an illustration of Dorothea Tanning's painting Birthday, 1942, in  Abstract and Surrealist Art in America, New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944, p. 107, which was the catalogue for an exhibition of the same title curated by Sidney Janis.