The Importance of Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait

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The biography of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is a spellbinding tale of rebellious art, romantic convictions, eccentric love affairs, and endless physical suffering. Her life was hard, her behavior was eccentric. Frida loved life itself. And this attracted men and women to her like a magnet.

Once Frida Kahlo said: “There were two main misfortunes in my life, Diego: an accident on a tram and meeting you. The second one is much harder.”

Actually, these two events served as the main leitmotif of her life. Since childhood, Frida had been in poor health, but at the age of 18 she had a serious accident, which tied her to hospitals for the rest of her life and made it impossible to have children. It was then that Frida began to draw. Mexican culture and the art of the peoples of pre-Columbian America had a noticeable influence on her work. The artistic style of Frida Kahlo is sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art.

Frida Kahlo`s self-portraits need no introduction. Art critics call the Mexican artist “one of the most famous women in the modern history of painting”, and her favorite genre is an unparalleled example of the author’s frankness, similar to psychoanalysis sessions fixed on canvas.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) painted over 100 paintings in her 47 years. Her exhibitions are organized extremely rarely and every time they cause a stir. Frida Kahlo`s self-portrait forever determined the main direction of creativity.

“I paint myself because I spend a lot of time alone and because I am the subject that I know best.”

We invite our readers to get acquainted with some of Frida Kahlo`s self-portraits.

Frida Kahlo’s “Diego and Me”

In 2021, Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait “Diego and Me” was sold at an auction house Sotheby’s for $34.9 million – a record amount for works by Latin American artists. Diego and Me were created by Frida Kahlo in 1949, five years before her death. This is one of the last self-portraits of the artist. Here she addresses the central theme of her work – her relationship with the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. In the painting, Kahlo looks at the viewer with eyes full of tears, she has a portrait of her husband Diego on her forehead, and a third eye is depicted on his forehead.

Frida Kahlo`s portrait was painted the same year that Diego began an affair with her friend, the actress of the golden age of Mexican cinema, Maria Felix. This work is a pictorial expression of Frida’s anguish and sorrow.

“Diego and Me is much more than a beautiful portrait. This is the sum of all Kahlo’s pain and passion,” said Anna Dee Stacey, director of Latin American art at Sotheby’s.

“Self Portrait with Little Monkey” Frida Kahlo

One of the most famous paintings of Frida Kahlo is “Self-portrait with a little monkey”, painted in 1945 and stored in the Mexican Museum Dolores Olmedo. The small canvas, strikingly different from most of the colorful works by Kahlo, is a very typical mixture of personal and national mythology for the artist and at the same time a shallowly encrypted message, full of discreet optimism. In the picture, Kahlo is surrounded by pets, the Mexican hairless dog Señor Xolotl and the monkey Changito, both symbolizing the children that the artist never had and her strong connection with national roots. The nail driven into the wall above Frida’s head is her author’s symbol of adultery.

Self-portrait with thorn necklace and hummingbird

Frida Kahlo`s self-portrait with thorn necklace and hummingbird was painted in 1940. Frida Kahlo did not depict a realistic scene but used symbolic elements to express her feelings. For example, a bird often symbolizes freedom and life. But in this picture the bird is black and lifeless. This may be a symbol of Frida herself. In this self-portrait, thorns pierce Frida’s neck, but instead of focusing on the pain, she thinks about culture, plants, and animals.

Frida Kahlo lived through strong emotions, physical pain, political upheaval and the turmoil of personal relationships, but she created canvases, an unusually beautiful house, a large garden, and a menagerie. She was a woman who ho cared about the world around her. Frida Kahlo`s self-portrait with thorn necklace and hummingbird is a very uplifting story.

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