Friday, November 2, 2012

MWA IX: Kahlo's Self

Since my last Monthly Work of Art post was about Goya and themed for Halloween, I thought in celebration of Mexico's Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) that I would share a picture by Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of Mexico's greatest painters who was married (rather tumultuously) to another of Mexico's great painters, Diego Rivera. Kahlo fascinates me as she does everyone for her hidden visual language and constant self-reflective portraits that seem like surrealist dreamscapes. I'm no Kahlo scholar, though, so rather than try to talk about this particular self-portrait, I thought I would provide an excerpt from the collection database at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where this picture resides.

"Like many paintings by Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky focuses on a particular event in the artist’s life. It commemorates the brief affair Kahlo had with the exiled Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky shortly after his arrival in Mexico in 1937. In this painting, she presents herself elegantly clothed in a long embroidered skirt, fringed shawl, and delicate gold jewelry. Flowers and coils of red yarn adorn her hair and adroitly applied makeup highlights her features. Poised and confident in her stage-like setting, Kahlo holds a bouquet of flowers and a letter of dedication to Trotsky that states, 'with all my love.' . . . Kahlo, like many Mexican artists working after the Revolutionary decade that began in 1910, was influenced in her art and life by the nationalistic fervor known as Mexicanidad. The artists involved in this movement rejected European influences and favored a return to the country’s native roots and folk traditions. Kahlo often wore the distinctive clothing of the Tehuantepec women in southwest Mexico; she also looked to pre-Columbian art and Mexican folk art for forms and symbols in her paintings. The compositional elements of the stage and curtains, for example, draw upon Mexican vernacular paintings called retablos, devotional images of the Virgin or Christian saints painted on tin, which Kahlo collected."

1 comment:

Sherman Clarke said...

Thanks for posting this, Roberto, and including that bit from the NWAA collection database. I read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver a couple books back and both Kahlo and Trotsky figure highly in the story.