Frida Kallo, a Mexican painter is known for her symbolism, vivid canvases, and numerous self-portraits. Her paintings are deeply intimate and inspired by “whatever goes through [her] brain without any other consideration.” The intimate and symbolism of her works may make it difficult for people to understand their messages and motifs. The meanings of her touching paintings can be seen through a contextual lens.
Kahlo covers many topics in her art, from her interest and her heritage to her struggle with childlessness or femininity. Her most famous paintings revolve around two events in her past: her tragic divorce from Diego Rivera (a fellow artist) and the almost fatal accident she survived when she was 14. In this context, seven of her most iconic paintings are discussed in order to better understand their themes, thoughts, emotions, and background.
Learn about 7 famous Frida Kahlo kunstwerke.
Self-Portrait With Thorn Necklace & Hummingbird 1940
Kahlo painted 55 depictions of herself throughout her career. This self-portrait is still a popular choice because of the emotive context in which it was created as well as the symbolism of its imagery.
Kahlo finished this piece in 1940 after her bitter divorce from Diego Rivera, a Mexican artist. Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace & Hummingbird is widely believed that it was a reflection on her emotional state after their separation.
Kahlo can be seen in this painting standing between a stalking monkey and a panther. Rivera and she had many monkeys to keep as pets. This led many to speculate that the monkeys served as surrogates for the babies Rivera and her husband were unable to have. Her neck is covered in a necklace made from thorns, which she has adorned with an apparently lifeless hummingbird. The unusual accessory draws blood to her neck but her expression remains calm. Kahlo has a calm approach towards pain that is characteristic of her. She, even though devastated by her divorce, stoically stated that she can “at the final day, we are able to endure much more than what we think”.
The Two Fridas 1939
The Two Fridas was inspired by Kahlo’s separation from Rivera. Kahlo explores her two sides in this piece. On the left, Kahlo depicts herself in a broken-hearted woman dressed in a traditional European gown. On the right, she shows her heart as whole and is wearing a modern Mexican outfit, which she adopted during her marriage to Rivera.
Two Fridas share a bench. They then hold hands. The embrace they share isn’t all that unites them. A single vein sprouts from their hearts and wraps around the arms. Frida cuts off the vein using surgical scissors to cause it to bleed. On the right, the vein leads into a tiny portrait Rivera that Frida has clutched and is almost invisible to the unobservant.
This unique self portrait likely reflects the inner identity struggle that Kahlo experienced during her divorce. Even though the subject matter is surrealistic, Kahlo claimed that such iconography was rooted within real-life and therefore a direct reflection on her persona. She stated, “I do not paint dreams or nightmares.” “I paint my own reality.”
1940 Self Portrait, Cropped Hair
Kahlo tried to reinvent herself after getting divorced. In defiance of her husband, she painted Self Portrait With Cropped Hair.
The artist sits in a brightly colored chair with scissors in her hand and locks of hair around her. She is clad in a men’s suit and has a short haircut. Above her is a pertinent lyrics from a Mexican folk music. The translation is: “Look. If I loved You, It Was Because of Your Hair.” Now that your hair is gone, I can’t even love you.
Kahlo’s androgynous approach towards her appearance in Self Portrait of Cropped Hair is clearly a departure from her long hair, flowing gowns, and feminine jewelry displayed in most of her depictions. This isn’t her first experimentation with a masculine style. Photos of the artist as an infant and teenager show her wearing suits, even when she was surrounded by women who opted for more feminine looks.
Self-Portrait on Borderline Between Mexico And the United States (1932)
Kahlo, Rivera and their four-year marriage lasted from 1930-1934. Kahlo suffered many hardships and even failed pregnancies, while her husband enjoyed success in the arts circles. Self-Portrait on Borderline between Mexico & the United States. This shows Kahlo’s dislike for American capitalism and longing for the rural lifestyle of Mexico.
On the right you will see a simplified rendering of Detroit (one of River’s cities), which is made up tall skyscrapers, and a manufacturing plant that emits plumes. The illustration on the left shows Mexico. It features plants, vegetables as well as ancient statues. In the background, you can see temple ruins. While Kahlo was very unhappy during this time, she was able to grow as an artist and experiment in many mediums.
1936. I, my grandparents, and my parents (Family Tree).
Kahlo’s family tree painting, My Grandparents. My Parents. and I, is one of only two. It documents her mixed race heritage. It features her Mexican mother and Mexican maternal grandmothers on the left and her German father (and German grandparents) on the right. Kahlo has included a photo of her as a child in the middle, holding the ribbon connecting all the figures.
The Broken Column, 1944
“I’ve had two amazing accidents in my entire life. One was the train, and the other was Diego. Diego was by no means the worst” In 1925, Kahlo, 18, was hurt in a streetcar collision that left her with a severe spinal injury. Broken Column by Kahlo gives us a sad glimpse at the lasting effects of the accident.
Kahlo, after her spinal surgery. With the exception of a hospital sheets and a corset made from metal, her body is nude. It is also split open to show that her body has been pierced with nails. Visible in the crack that cuts through her body is an Ionic column crumbling, which symbolizes her fractured body. A barren landscape in the background is also fissured and a stormy overhead can be seen.
Kahlo painted The Bus in 1929. It is a representation of what she saw moments prior to her life-altering accident.
The Wounded Deer (1946).
Another self-portrait is the Wounded Deer. It symbolically addresses the emotional, and physical, pain of Kahlo’s injuries.
Kahlo has shown herself as a deer in her piece. Perhaps this was inspired by Granizo, Kahlo’s beloved pet. It is evident that the deer is going to die. Kahlo was in serious decline at the time of the painting. Apart from the failure of corrective surgeries and ongoing pain due to her accident, Kahlo also suffered from gangrene.
The Wounded Deer is also a reference to Christian iconography, similar to The Broken Column. According to the bible a volley of arrows killed Saint Sebastian, an early Christian martyr and saint. His death remains a popular topic in art for centuries. This likely inspired Kahlo’s choice of subject matter.
Kahlo, unfortunately, died in 1954. Her personal approach is what made her art so special.
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