Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kahlo, Frida

Self Portrait dedicated to Dr. Eloesser
oil on masonite
59.5 x 40 cm
Private Collection, USA

Towards the end of 1939, Frida began to suffer increased back pain and developed an acute fungal infection in her right hand. At the recommendation of Dr. Eloesser, her long-time friend and doctor, she traveled to San Francisco to see him for treatment. In thanks for the treatment that stabilized her condition, she painted this self-portrait for him. The dedication inscribed on the banderole at the bottom reads: "I painted my portrait in the year 1940 for Doctor Leo Eloesser, my doctor and my best friend. With all my love. Frida Kahlo."

The earrings she is wearing were a gift from Pablo Picasso whom she met while in Paris. The hand on the banderole as well as on the earrings, makes reference at what is called in Mexico "milagros". Milagros are pieces made of wax or ivory shaped in the form of the part of the human body that the person wants to be healed, and left on the altar of the Saint they pray to. The necklace of thorns around her neck is a reminder of the pain from which Dr. Eloesser freed her. It was Dr. Eloesser who later convinced Diego Rivera to reconcile and marry Frida for a second time. This painting may have been a "Thank You" gift for Dr. Eloesser's efforts.

When Dr. Eloesser died in 1994, he willed the painting to his long time companion Joyce Campbell. Campbell didn't really like the painting and described it as "...a garish, unlikable, unsettling painting...I could never have lived with it." Not long after she received the painting she sold it.

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "My painting carries with it the message of pain." (Frida)

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907 - 1954) 's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. The iconic Mexican painter's biography is riddled with sadness. At the age of six, she developed polio, leaving her right leg thinner than the left, which she disguised by wearing long, colorful skirts. Following a traffic accident in her teenage years, Frida went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. Her traffic accident was life changing. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a dislocated shoulder and other complications which affected her reproductive ability. During three months recovering in a full body cast, Frida studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother. Frida later stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter". She channeled her energy and emotion into her artworks and her many pets - Amazon parrots, spider monkeys, Aztecs dogs, hens, sparrows and a fawn - which lived at her home.

Mexican culture and Amerindian cultural tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as Naive art or folk art. Her work has also been described as "surrealist", and in 1938 Andre Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Frida's art as a "ribbon around a bomb".

Frida's health deteriorated steadily during the 1950s. She went through a series of operations on her spine, all to no avail. Eventually, she was confined to a wheel chair, then permanently consigned to bed. She was forced to take painkillers almost constantly, and the technical execution of her work deteriorated visibly. In the summer of 1954, she contracted pneumonia and died soon after turning 47, in the Blue House, the place where she had been born. A few days before her death she wrote in her diary, "I hope the exit is joyful ... and I hope never to return ... Frida".

In accordance with Frida's wishes, her body was cremated. The urn was placed in the Blue House, which was converted into a gallery of her work.
"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."
Frida produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends.