Frida Kahlo is known worldwide as one of the most revolutionary Latin American artists. When she was seventeen, Kahlo was involved in a near fatal bus accident. Due to the grave injuries she suffered in the accident, she had to undergo 35 operations in her life, bear with relapses of extreme pain and could not have children. Kahlo is famous for her self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. Here are 10 of her most famous paintings.
#10 My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree)
Family Tree was created when Hitler and Nazi Germany were on the rise. Through this artwork Kahlo proudly represents her mixed heritage at a time when Hitler outlawed interracial marriages. Frida stands in the middle with her Mexican mother and German born, supposedly Jewish, father behind her. She has also depicted herself in her mother’s womb. Her maternal grandparents are on the left above the mountainous Mexican landscape while she painted her paternal grandparents above the ocean, indicating their European origins.
#9 Self Portrait with Cropped Hair
Frida Kahlo had a turbulent relationship with another famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, whom she divorced and married again. About a month after her divorce from Rivera, Kahlo cut off her long hair that her ex-husband loved so much and this self-portrait was created around that time. In it Kahlo is dressed in a man’s attire, holding scissors and sitting on a chair surrounded by the hair she has cut. Whether the portrait depicts her despair or is a declaration of independence is debated. At the top of the painting are lyrics from a Mexican song that say: “Look, if I loved you it was because of your hair. Now that you are without hair, I don’t love you anymore.”
#8 The Suicide of Dorothy Hale
Dorothy Hale was an American actress who’s failing career, death of her husband and several failed subsequent relationships and financial debt forced her to commit suicide by jumping off a high New York building. Hale’s friend Clare Luce asked Kahlo to create a painting in her memory. Kahlo went on to create this painting which offended Luce so much that she contemplated destroying it. The painting, which is a step by step graphic narrative of the suicide of Dorothy Hale, is one of Kahlo’s most controversial and famous works.
In this painting Frida can be seen lying on earth with her elbow supporting her head. Her torso is open and she has given birth to a vine. However there is eminent danger as a deep crack is opening next to her. Like many of Kahlo’s works, the painting is well known for its symbolism. In May 2006, Roots sold for US$5.6 million dollars setting an auction record for a Latin American piece of art.
#6 Without Hope
In 1945, Kahlo suffered from a lack of appetite due to the numerous surgeries she had to undergo and because she was ill often. As she had become malnourished, the doctor prescribed her complete bed rest and a forced diet of pureed food every two hours. Through this painting Kahlo portrays what she went through when she was forced fed. In it she shows a wooden structure which holds a funnel to continuously feed her. On the back of the painting Kahlo wrote, “Not the least hope remains for me….everything moves in step with what’s in the belly.”
#5 A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love)
A Few Small Nips reflects Kahlo’s troubled state of mind on learning that her husband Rivera was having an affair with her sister Cristina. Kahlo draws a parallel between herself and another unfortunate woman about whom she learned in a newspaper. The woman, who was unfaithful, was murdered in an act of jealousy. The painting takes its title from what the murderer said to the judge to defend his action: “But it was just a few small nips!” The ribbon held by two doves bears the title of the painting.
#4 The Wounded Deer
In The Wounded Deer Kahlo’s head is placed on a stag which is bleeding as it has been pierced by multiple arrows. Kahlo used her own pet deer “Granizo” as a model for this painting. As many of Kahlo’s works, multiple interpretations can be deduced from the painting. Perhaps the deer, which is an ancient Aztec symbol for the right foot, refers to Kahlo’s right foot which had been crushed in the accident. At this point in her career, eastern influences could be seen in her works and she has written “Carma” on the lower left corner of this painting.
#3 The Broken Column
Kahlo’s works depict the trauma she had to go through in her life due to the injuries she suffered in the accident and this work is the most conspicuous portrayal of her suffering. In this masterpiece Kahlo’s body is opened up and a crumbling stone column replaces the spine of Kahlo, symbolizing the consequences of the accident. Nails are stuck into her face and body and tears can be seen on her face but she looks straight at the viewer. The Broken Column is the most straightforward and ruthless depiction of the agony she faced through her life.
#2 Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
Frida Kahlo is known for symbolically portraying her physical and psychological wounds through her self-portraits and this painting is a prime example of that. In it Kahlo is wearing a thorn necklace and blood can be seen tricking from the wounds made on her neck by the thorns. A black monkey and a black cat are present on left and right side of her. Hummingbird, a symbol of freedom, is hanging lifelessly from the thorn necklace. Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird is perhaps Kahlo’s most critically acclaimed masterpiece.
#1 The Two Fridas
The Two Fridas was created around the time of Kahlo’s divorce to Diego Rivera and it is believed it portrays her loss. It is a double self-portrait. Frida on the left is wearing a white European style dress with her heart torn and bleeding while Frida on the right is wearing a traditional Mexican dress with her heart still whole. Kahlo remarried Rivera a year later and although their second marriage was as troubled as the first, it lasted till her death. The painting is the largest work of Kahlo and also her most famous.