Self-portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is known for creating striking, often shocking self-portraits that reflected her political ideology, cultural identity, and her turbulent personal life.

Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (1937) by Frida KahloNational Museum of Women in the Arts

Although she is referred to as a Surrealist, Kahlo maintained, “I never painted dreams. I
painted my own reality.”

She presents herself elegantly clothed in a long embroidered skirt, fringed shawl, and delicate gold jewelry.

She stands center stage, meeting the viewer’s gaze with confidence.

Flowers and coils of red yarn adorn her hair and adroitly applied makeup highlights her

Kahlo holds a bouquet of flowers and a letter that reads, "Para Leon Trotsky con todo cariño, dedico ésta pintura, el dia 7 de Noviembre de 1937. Frida Kahlo. En San Ángel, Mexico".

Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky commemorates the brief affair Kahlo had with the exiled Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky shortly after his arrival in Mexico in 1937, and before his assassination in 1940.

Though this painting proclaims her political allegiance to Trotskyism, Kahlo subsequently broke with the movement and became a supporter of Stalin in 1939.

Whereas the subject of the painting reveals Kahlo's engagement with international politics, the Mexican folk art-inspired style illustrates her devotion to Mexicanidad. This post-Revolutionary movement that emphasized Mexican nationalism and eschewed European influences.

The compositional elements of the stage and curtains, evoke Mexican vernacular paintings called retablos. These devotional images of the Virgin or Christian saints painted on tin were a form of folk art that Kahlo collected.

Framing herself between curtains, Kahlo controls her staged reality to cast herself as a protagonist in a dramatic declaration of political allegiance, as well as love.
The imaginary setting in Kahlo's painting serves as a symbolic space for self-staged expression.

Credits: Story
Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Faces of Frida
A closer look at the many faces of Frida Kahlo through her life, art and legacy
View theme
Google apps