Posted by Padmore Editorial

Frida Kahlo is known all over her world for her peculiar self-portraits. But do you know the inspiration behind her style? Each painting has a story, each more fascinating than the rest, some disturbing, some just beautiful. See for yourself. 

This painting, Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress, is one of Frida Kahlo's early portraits. This portrait implied the emotional tension as well as showing with her other paintings. This painting she used as a token of love to regain the affection from her lover. She started working on this painting during the late summer of 1926 when her relationship with Alejandro is turning sour because Alejandro thinks she is too liberal. She wrote letter to him and promised that she will be a better person to deserve him. And when she finished this portrait in September of 1926 she wrote a letter to: "Within a few days the portrait will be in your house.Forgive me for sending it without a frame. I implore you to put it in a low place where you can see it as if you were looking at me."


In this self-portrait, Frida was wearing a wine-red velvet dress and looks like a princess in it. She sent it to Alejandro and hope he will keep her in his mind. This painting worked: after Alejandro received this painting, they went back to be together again. But he left for Europe in March 1927 because his parents don't want him to be together with Frida. She wrote a lot of letters after they are apart and in those letters she called herself with her Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress, calling it "your 'Botticelli'. She wrote this: "Alex, your 'Botticelli' has also become very sad, but I told her that until you come back, she should be the 'sound asleep one'; in spite of this she remembers you always." And in a few months on awaiting him coming back to Mexico, she wrote the letter with reference to this portrait: "You cannot imagine how marvelous it is to wait for you, serenely as in the portrait." It was obvious Frida was hoping her self-portrait has the magical power that can win back her love.


In Frida's painting of her and Diego, she recorded the up and downs of her marriage. She draw this painting,Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931, as a wedding portrait. This was completed after two years of their conjugal life. In this painting Frida adopted the stiff pose which is an influence of naive nineteenth-century painters such as Jose Maria Estrada, whose work influenced Diego Rivera also. An enlightening engraving on a strip in the snout of a pigeon (a gadget both Frida and Diego obtained from such craftsmen as Estrada and from well known craftsmanship) is as straightforward in tone as the painting is folkloric in style: "Here you see us, me Frieda Kahlo, with my dearest husband Diego Rivera. I painted these pictures in the delightful city of San Francisco California for our companion Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in the month of April of the year 1931." (Bender, a Rivera supporter, had secured consent for Rivera to enter the United States after he was declined a visa due to his well-known Communism.)


The painting indications at what the Riveras' marriage would get to be. As solidly planted as an oak, Rivera looks colossal beside his wife. Dismissing from her, he shakes his palette and brushes - he is the extraordinary maestro. Frida, whose little feet scarcely brush the ground, cocks her make a beeline for her great mate. This painting shows her favorite image: the genius's adoring wife. She was holding his hand with the lightest possible clasp. Frida understood that Diego belongs to nobody. Even while she was painting this portrait, Rivera was in an affair with tennis champion Helen Wills. He painted her nude image on the ceiling of the Luncheon Club of the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco. Later Frida was to remark: "Being the wife of Diego is the most marvelous thing in the world ... I let him play matrimony with other women. Diego is not anybody's husband and never will be, but he is a great comrade." Nevertheless, she wanted to be his favorite comrade: in the exact center of her wedding portrait are the couple's hold hands holding together. The turning point of Frida's life was the marriage bond.


In Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, the sun and moon hold sway only over Mexico, which was, this painting tells us, where Frida wanted to be. While Diego Rivera was busy eulogizing modern industry on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Frida was yearning for the ancient agrarian culture of Mexico. In her painting she is dressed up in an uncharacteristically sweet pink frock and lace gloves. But she herself is far from demure. As in her first self-portrait, her nipples show beneath her bodice. Her face is poised for mischief, and, again in defiance of propriety, she holds a cigarette. She also holds a small Mexican flag, which tells us where her loyalties lie.


In Self-Portrait on the Border Line a fire-spitting sun and a quarter moon are enclosed in cumulus clouds that, when they touch, create a bolt of lightning. By contrast, the single cloud over the United States is nothing but industrial smoke spewed from four chimney stacks labeled FORD. And instead of encompassing the sun and moon, the American cloud besmirches the American flag, whose artificial stars have none of the dazzle of Mexico's real sun and real moon. Whereas the Mexican side of the border has a partially ruined pre-Columbian temple, the United States has bleak skyscrapers. Whereas Mexico has a pile of rubble, a skull, and pre-Columbian fertility idols, the United States has a new factory with four chimneys that look like automatons. And whereas Mexico has exotic plants with white roots, the United States has three round machines with black electric cords. The machine nearest Frida has two cords. One connects with a Mexican lily's white roots, the other is plugged into the United States side of the border marker, which serves as Frida's pedestal. She, of course, is as motionless as a statue, which is what she pretends to be. With the high-voltage irony of her withering glance, Frida looks, once again, like a "ribbon around a bomb."


This painting, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, was painted by Frida Kahlo in 1940. Although this painting has a small size (about 16x24), it draws lots of interests, since it contains so many aspects which are symbolic to Frida Kahlo. In this portrait, Frida Kahlo faces the viewer with background of large green leaves and a yellow leaf right behind her. The thorns are around her neck like a necklace which is held by a black monkey. Her neck is bleeding from the piercing thorns. On right side behind her shoulder is a black cat. A humming bird is hanging on the thorn which knots around her throat. Her expression is calm and solemn. It also seems she is patiently enduring the pain.


Frida Kahlo put so many symbolic creatures in this painting. She was not painting a realistic scene but using these symbolic elements to express her feelings. A bird has often symbolized freedom and life. Especially hummingbird which is colorful and always hovering above flowers. But in this painting, the hummingbird is black and lifeless. This might be a symbol of Frida herself. Frida spent most of her life in physical pain after the bus accident happened when she was eighteen. After that, she endured about thirty-five operations to fix her body. She spent so many years bedridden and cannot bear any children. This is a painting about her suffering.

In this painting, Roots, 1943, Frida stated her faith that all life can join in a single flow. In this painting, Frida is depicted as her torso opens up like a window and gives birth to a vine. It's her dream of being able to give birth as a childless woman. Frida's blood circulates the vine and reach beyond the leaves' veins and feed the parched earth. She is dreaming to be a tree of life with her elbow supporting her head on a pillow. Also with her Catholic religion background it's possible she is trying to mimic Christ's sacrifice by having her blood flowing to the grape vine. This implication of a sacrificial victim is also reflected in a few of her other paintings.


In May of 2006, this painting was auctioned at Sotheby's in New York and sold for $5,616,000....setting a new record for the artist. It was sold to an anonymous phone bidder. Rumors within the art world say that the anonymous buyer was the pop star "Madonna" who owns other Kahlo originals.

In 1946, Frida's health got worse and she made a trip to New York for a spinal fusion surgery. This operation was called "the beginning of the end" by Frida Kahlo since after this operation, her condition has been getting worse and worse even she consulted so many doctors and specialists. This self-portrait was painted while she was recovering from this surgery. Frida looks thin and exhausted in this painting. The legend on the scroll at the bottom of this painting reads: "Here I painted myself, Frida Kahlo, with my reflection in the mirror. I am 37 years old and this is July, 1947. In Coyoacan, Mexico, the place where I was born".

She stated herself as "37 years old" in the inscription but her real age was 40 at the time this portrait was painted.In this painting Frida depicted herslef with large volume of loose hair. It probably because she wants to please Diego Rivera since he is obsessed with her long hair.

This painting was auctioned by Christie's, New York, in May of 1991. It was sold for a wowing price of $1,650,000. In the 2003 Miramax Film "FRIDA", actress Salma Hayek played the role of Frida. Salma herself is an amateur artist and painted her own version of this portrait during the time she was shooting this film.





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