I have always been amazed by the works of Frida Kahlo. The other day I re-watched Frida, starring Salma Hayek and my admiration for her came flooding back with renewed vigour.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter. She suffered a tragic childhood, a painful adolescence, a difficult marriage and a wildly successful career. As with many artists, her paintings are significantly more popular now than they were during her lifetime.
I love Frida’s paintings because they are so emotional and raw. She uses clever symbolism and bright colours and is heavily influenced by Mexican folk styles. Frida’s paintings are also quite surreal and often feature gruesome or disturbing imagery. Many of her paintings are self-portraits that have been painted during times of personal turmoil or transformation. I especially love that Frida always painted herself honestly. She didn’t try to make herself look more beautiful, or hide her flaws, she painted exactly what she saw in the mirror.
I have decided that if I ever become obscenely rich, I would like to own a Frida Kahlo painting. Even now, I am searching for prints and posters of her work. Here is a list of my top five Kahlo paintings.
This self-portrait was painted just after Frida suffered a miscarriage. When Frida was eighteen, she was in a trolley accident in which a metal railing impaled her body. The rod entered through her back, and exited out her vagina, shattering her pelvis. As a result, she suffered several miscarriages and was never able to bear children. Frida also suffered enormous physical pain throughout her life, stemming from this injury. This painting depicts the miscarriage of her first child. Although gruesome to look at, this painting is filled with her personal pain and frustration at losing the child that she wanted so badly.
Frida painted this as a gift to her husband, Diego Rivera, who was a mural painter. This picture shows their two faces merged as one, sharing the one heart. It is clear from this portait that Frida was deeply in love with Diego, and saw them as two halves of the same person. It is a work filled with love and affection.
This self-portrait was painted by Frida soon after her marriage to Diego ended. It shows Frida, sitting on a chair wearing a man’s suit, with a pair of scissors in her hands. Her hair has been shorn and strands of hair litter the floor around her. The strands almost seem to slither across the floor. This picture is thought to symbolise the surrender of the artist’s feminity, and the pain she suffered at the breakdown of her marriage. The top of the painting bears an inscription in Spanish, which, when translated into English reads: “See if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you are bald, I don’t love you anymore”. The expression on Frida’s face seems defiant and hard. Diego had many affairs during his marriage to Frida, but it was his affair with her sister that angered her enough to leave him. They remarried about two years later.
This painting depicts a brightly coloured Mexican dress belonging to Frida hanging among a number of iconic American images. Frida created this work while she and Diego were living in New York, but she longed to return home to her family in Mexico. She is believed to have told Diego that the only connection she had with America was that her dress hung there, but her heart belonged in Mexico.
This portrait shows two Frida Kahlos sitting side by side. They are dressed very differently, one in a traditional Victorian wedding dress and the other in Mexican dress. They are joined by a vein that protrudes from a portrait of Diego that is held in the hand of one of the figures. Both figures have their hearts exposed, and the ‘bride’ Frida’s heart is broken. This painting was created during the period that Diego and Frida were separated, and is an expression of her feelings of hurt and abandonment. The two Fridas are holding hands: she is her only companion.
Do you have a favourite Frida Kahlo painting?