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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Kahlo, Frida


Portrait of Alicia Galant
1927
oil on canvas
107 x 93 cm
Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City, Mexico

Alicia Galant is a friend of Frida Kahlo. When Frida first began painting, she painted portraits, mostly of close friends and members of her immediate family. Portrait of Alicia Galant is painted in the style of a 16th century Italian Renaissance portrait, similar to the style use by Bronzino and Botticelli, two artists that Frida greatly admired. The dark gloomy background in this painting shows signs of the Art Nouveau style that was popular at the time.

"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) "She lived dying", said one of Frida's friend.

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 (a tram collided with the bus on which she was travelling home from school), she went on to suffer further health problems until her death in 1954. The 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, she studied the natural sciences, with the eventual aim of becoming a medical doctor... and began to paint, encouraged by her mother.

As a child, she lived through the Mexican Revolution, and from a young age she was interested in politics. She is believed to have joined the Young Communist League, and attended rallies and meetings. In 1928, when she was 21, Kahlo embarked on a relationship with Diego Rivera. Rivera, then aged 41, was Mexico’s most celebrated artist, famed for politically motivated murals that adorned the walls of numerous public buildings. Encouraged by Rivera, who used aspects of Mexican folk art in his mural schemes, Kahlo began to paint in a more vernacular style.

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 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.

During the 1950s, her health deteriorated steadily. 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. She produced only about 200 paintings - primarily still life and portrait of herself, family and friends. "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."