I have chosen to commence the blog on Frida Kahlo with one of her paintings from nature rather than the portraits she is best known for. The colours are so vibrant and the sense of composition brilliant. Frida Kahlo's still life paintings are amongst my favourites but that's not the reason I have chosen to start here. Frida had a passion for food and was known for her incredible dinner parties.
And what you might not know is that an opera Frida was written about her in 1991 based on the book by Hilary Blecher, music by Robert Xavier Rodriguez and lyrics and monologues by Migdalia Cruz. The opera celebrates not only her art but her recipes and love of food. This painting is titled Corn.
And this painting is titled Coconut Tears which is a little signal that all was not well with Frida.
The main reason I’ve started with Frida’s Still Life paintings is that she was a very complicated character suffering much physical and psychological pain and her other paintings, especially her self portraits illustrate much of this pain so we will edge along gently.
Frida Kahlo (1907- 1954) would have to be Mexico’s best known artist though she was certainly overshadowed for a long time by her husband the muralist Diego Riveria whom she first met when she was 15 and he was painting the Creation mural (1922) in the amphitheatre of her Preparatory School. We will look at his work when we get onto murals. Here is Frida's painting of herself with Diego Rivera.
Frida’s father was German and her mother came from a American Indian and Spanish heritage. Much of her work was inspired by the nature of Mexico and its artefacts. In her self portraits she is often wearing traditional Mexican dress as shown below in a cropped segment from Tree of Hope painted in 1946. I will show you the rest of the painting and the story behind it in the next Blog.
And Mexican flowers feature frequently in her works. I believe she had a beautiful garden of her own. This self portrait is dedicated to Dr Eloesser who was a noted thoracic surgeon. He was a lifelong friend and medical adviser to Frida Kahlo who suffered many medical problems which we will get onto soon.
In many of her paintings you can see Frida's pet monkeys and birds to emphasise the link between humans, animals and nature.
And often Frida is wearing jewellery made from wheels, stones and bones. Here she is with a thorn necklace and hummingbird.
If we look at the style used by Frida Kahlo in her paintings you can see it has elements of naive folk art with her attention to detail and the employment of strong colours. Her works have also been labelled Surrealism, Magic Realism and Primitivism. As I have said before, I will deal with Primitivism at a later date but suffice to say Primitivism involves the use of motifs borrowed from non-Western and much earlier times right back to prehistoric peoples. Frida's use of ancient Mexican symbols would move her towards this school. There is also a tendency to class professional painters who work in a naive style as belonging to primitivism. This would apply to the works of Henri Rousseau. I will think about other painters this applies to before tackling this style.
Frida Kahlo might not have received a formal grounding in painting but she did receive drawing lessons from her father's friend Fernando Fernandez and she worked for him as an apprentice engraver. She also helped her father in his photography studio. Tomorrow we will go on to look at her more confronting images and the stories behind them.