An inspiration for generations to come. An artist who wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. A bold activist and feminist. This is Frida Kahlo.
Known for her signature mono-brow, her dreamy self-portraits and colourful traditional dresses, Frida is considered one of the most influential and important artists of all time. She is remembered to this day not only for her captivating art but also for her strong and determined spirit which led her to become a symbol of feminism.
The Mexican painter was herself an activist, using her art to heal from her personal traumas – from her physical problems to the miscarriage and her husband’s affair – but to even address cultural, religious and political matters. As a nationalist, some elements in her paintings hinted at her political views: from the clothing to the animals, the jewellery and the mythic references, they all reveal her commitment to her country’s history and beliefs.
Most of her artworks are self-portraits because, as she said, ‘I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to better.’ Although they represent phases of her life, the messages they hold are universal.
Now a symbol in pop culture, Kahlo is an inspiration in art, fashion and culture. To mark her 113th birthday, we celebrate her legacy with some of her best artworks that will make you appreciate her art even more.
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
Completed in 1940, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird is one of Frida’s most famous paintings which depicts her emotional state following the divorce from her husband Diego Rivera. Betrayal is always a tough pill to swallow and Frida represented it with a necklace made out of thorns adorned with a lifeless hummingbird.
Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)
After her divorce, Frida wanted to reinvent herself: she cut her hair and started to wear men’s clothes. In Self Portrait with Cropped Hair, the painter challenges society’s conventions posing as a man. She expresses the ‘chains of femininity’, explaining how the ideal of beauty for a woman is strictly bond too long hair, flowing dresses and jewellery.
The Broken Column (1944)
In 1925, Kahlo was involved in a streetcar accident that left her with a broken spinal column and other major injuries. In the Broken Column, Kahlo depicts herself partly naked, pierced by hundreds of nails. The artwork is a representation of her physical pains after the accident and consequent surgeries. It was her own way to cope with all the pain caused by her unfortunate events.
The Two Fridas (1939)
Just like her previous artworks, The Two Fridas is in response to her separation from Rivera, but here she shows 2 sides of herself. One is heartbroken while the other has her heart intact. Once again the theme of love and coping with pain is the message of the painting. The struggle with her inner identity brings her to have two distant natures that deal with pain in different ways.
Viva La Vida (1954)
One of the last works Frida painted before her death, ‘Viva La Vida’ is not a self-portrait. It shows some watermelons, some cut in particular ways, with one slice in the centre adorned by Frida’s signature along with the artwork’s title. The message of the piece is simple: despite the deteriorating health of the artist, the title of the work is a tribute to life.
Words by Gennaro Costanzo
Graphics by Georgia Walters