Frida Kahlo's work placed Mexican art on the international stage. Her style was figuratist and self-taught, with elements of the fantastical and an emphasis on her own individual, biographical perspective. Her self-referential art, now a media phenomenon, originated in the development of her portrait painting which, from early on, became her most effective device for expressing a certain unease about exploring her own personality.
In 1938, André Breton labeled Kahlo's work as surrealist, leading to "Las Dos Fridas" (The Two Fridas) being exhibited at the "International Exhibition of Surrealism," organized by the Gallery of Mexican Art in 1940. Kahlo painted this work on her return to Mexico following her separation from Diego Rivera, with whom she had been living in Detroit, Michigan.
This particular painting depicts a split into 2 identities: Frida dressed in a white lace dress with European-style embroidery, and Frida in a traditional Tehuana dress, in reference to the dress that Diego loved. The hearts of both Fridas are exposed and connected to one another: the first has cut her artery with scissors, staining her white skirt, and the other holds a small portrait of Rivera. The clouds in the background imbue the scene with a sense of doom.
This painting was acquired by the INBA (Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts) directly from the artist in 1947, and transferred to the MAM (Museum of Modern Art) on December 28, 1966.