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.
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.
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky by Frida KahloNational Museum of Women in the Arts
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, National Museum of Women in the Arts website
Artist Friendships: Lola Álvarez Bravo and Frida Kahlo, NMWA Blog
Self-Portraits in NMWA’s Collection, NMWA Blog