Frida Kahlo: I Portray Myself

Understanding the path that led her to become the representative of Mexican art to the world.

By Museo Dolores Olmedo

Photo of Frida Kahlo by Esther BornMuseo Dolores Olmedo

I Portray Myself

"I paint myself" is a completely revealing phrase, not only because it refers us to the work of the artist, but to the character herself. 

Frida Kahlo (1926) by Guillermo KahloMuseo Frida Kahlo

After her accident in 1925, she posed only for her father, Guillermo Kahlo,  and for the viewer. We see an intentionality that will last until her last days: knowing and enjoying being observed.

Self-portrait with Small Monkey (1945) by Frida KahloMuseo Dolores Olmedo

Around 1945, at the age of 38, Frida knew herself to perfection. Her artistic production included a number of famous self-portraits, but it is in Self-Portrait with Small Monkey that we see her surrounded by all the elements of her personal world.

The Broken Column (1944) by Frida KahloMuseo Dolores Olmedo

Pain was constantly reflected in her self-portraits, sometimes as a consequence of the accident, other times for a variety of reasons, such as her inability to have children, her miscarriages, and even Diego Rivera’s endless infidelities.

The mask (1945) by Frida KahloMuseo Dolores Olmedo

Dressed as a Tehuana, bejeweled and elegant, Frida hides behind a cardboard mask, one of many pieces of folk art that she collected. Her pain is obvious, but we do not see it . . . for it is the mask that weeps.

Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951) by Frida KahloMuseo Dolores Olmedo

The elements seen earlier in her self-portraits are also present in her still lifes: the pre-Hispanic pieces that remind us of Diego Rivera; the parrots, which are now perched on the fruit; the ribbons that she used to accompany the dedications in her portraits and self-portraits, are replaced by Mexican flags stuck into the fruit, but with the same intentionality of affection as before.

Still Life (I Belong to Samuel Fastlitch) (1951) by Frida KahloMuseo Dolores Olmedo

A coconut weeps and the fruit “bleeds” instead of her body. The sexuality that she conveyed in her paintings on other occasions now becomes even more evident, less veiled, in the ripe fruit cut open to reveal their succulent flesh, in a direct invitation to pleasure.

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