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Frida Kahlo, the most famous female artist to date. Frida was a confident and brave woman, especially for her time. She didn’t let anyone tell her what she could and could not accomplish. Even through her personal troubles, she was able to live an inspirational life and create beautiful art pieces that are still treasured today. Her artwork reflects her experiences and illustrate her background and culture. Frida’s story is one that has inspired many people; including me, which is the reason why I have chosen her to write about. I would like to also be confident enough to not let anyone get to me so that I could live my life the way I desire. Many of her paintings were her expressing her mental and physical pain. Two of her famous paintings which have particularly spoken to me include The Two Fridas, which express her pain on the inside; and The Broken Column, which expresses her pain on the exterior.
Frida was born and raised in Mexico; her life started on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City. She was especially close to her father as a child. Regardless, her life began on a rough start. She contracted polio at the age of six and had to be in bed for nine months; as a result of this disease, her right leg grew much skinnier than her left. She often wore long skirts in order to hide her misshapen legs. Despite this, Frida was still determined to do activities such as swimming, playing soccer, boxing, and other things unusual for girls at the time. Additionally, her mother was the one who encouraged her to do most of these things. With the eventual goal of working in the medical field, she attended the National Preparatory School in Mexico City when she was 15 in 1922. She was one of the 35 female students who went to this school. This is also where she met the love of her life: Diego Rivera. All seemed to be going as planned, but fate led her life to an unfortunate turn. In 1925 she was impaled by a handrail through her hip during an unfortunate bus accident; her spine and pelvis were broken. She was put into a hospital and was kept in a body cast after being given surgery. As a result of this accident, Frida had to have over 30 surgeries and operations done over her lifetime.
Nevertheless, during her time recovering, she had started to paint. It was something she had begun doing in order to pass the time while she was immobile in the hospital. She eventually finished her first painting in 1926 by the name of Self-Portrait Wearing a Velvet Dress. Frida once gave her reasoning on why she painted so many portraits of herself by saying, “I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best”. Out of the total of 200 paintings she had done, Frida had painted 55 self-portraits. Many of her paintings were expressions of how much pain she felt inside and out.
In 1928 is when Frida met with Rivera once again; she showed him her work and he was quite impressed. He encouraged her to continue painting, so that’s what Frida decided to do. Eventually the two of them fell in love, causing Diego to divorce his wife so they could get married in 1929. Even though Frida’s mother did not approve of their marriage, they were happily marriage to each other. They were sometimes called “The Elephant and the Dove”, a nickname given to express their difference in size. Following her marriage to Diego, Frida had implied some minor changes to her style of painting. She also began to wear a Tehuana dress that also became a symbol for her, as well as traditional Mexican clothing. These traditional clothes included a headdress, a blouse, a long skirt, and gold jewelry. In 1931, she created a piece by the name of “Frida and Diego Rivera” which showed this changed style in painting and clothing.
By 1934 Frida had had two miscarriages. To show her pain as a result of this, she had painted a piece titled Henry Ford Hospital in 1932 which included herself lying in a hospital bed with a fetus, a flow, a pelvis, and a snail surrounding her and being connected by veins. This reminds us that she wanted to have children despite the fact she couldn’t because of the bus accident. Even though Frida claimed Diego was the love of her life, her marriage with Diego was one with many affairs; one of which was with Kahlo’s sister Cristina. Frida Kahlo was so depressed by this that she had actually cut off her hair short to express herself as a result of the betrayal. However, Frida also had many affairs with both men and women, making her the most well-known bisexual woman artist to date. Their marriage ended for a short time on 1939, but they had eventually remarried in 1940. During that time in 1939, Frida painted one of her most famous paintings: The Two Fridas. This piece shows her divided self and how she felt during the time she was not with Diego. Four years after they remarried she painted another familiar painting, The Broken Column, which shows herself split open and her spine replaced with a broken column. This piece reminds us of the pain she must have felt due to the bus accident.
Frida’s health did not get any better. Eventually in 1953 she had a solo exhibition which she showed up to in an ambulance. A year later she died of pulmonary embolism, though it is suspected that she may have committed suicide through overdose since she was highly depressed due to her lack of mobility. Days before she died, Frida wrote: “I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return”. These last few words are able to show us how much pain she must have experienced throughout her life up to this point and how she was tired of living. Even so, she had pushed on until that point in her life which makes her an inspiration to all. Her life hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Her artworks can be admired by all sorts of people in many different art galleries and museums around the world. Even generations after her death, Frida is still a top subject in most art classes. Her paintings are easily recognizable and very iconic in today’s world. We will be sure to never forget her outstanding contributions to the art world as well as the impact she has made in our hearts.
One of the paintings previously mentioned was a portrait by the name of The Two Fridas, done in 1939 and using oil paint. Depicted in this painting is two Frida Kahlo’s holding hands. One Frida is wearing a modern dress and the other is wearing a traditional Tehuana costume. Their hearts are on the outside of their bodies and one even has some blood on her dress and is also holding scissors. One of the elements of design used in this painting is texture to be seen; there is plenty of texture especially in the dresses and the sky or background. It feels like the fabrics worn have a sort of softness to them, as if they were really draping over the Frida’s bodies. In the background there is a sort of madness happening with all the light cloud-like shapes and all the different values in there. A principle of design shown is definitely balance, because the face that the piece is symmetric with two Fridas but is still asymmetrical due to the different outfits. This portrait is very unified and harmonious because of this asymmetry happening with the two different Fridas that are similar and holding hands. This painting is an example of her putting her feelings pain on the inside onto a canvas; she was trying to express her feeling of divided self and her sadness from being separated from Diego. There is a bit of abstraction in this portrait because the human figure and dresses are not quite realistic or how you would see it in the real world. Personally, this painting gives me a sense of dread and sadness knowing she felt this way. Frida felt desperate and alone during the time she was separated from Diego; this shows just how much she loved Diego. Anyone who’s ever been in love before should know the pain felt when they cannot be with their loved one, and Frida must have felt that constantly even when they weren’t divorced because they lived in separate locations.
The second famous painting that has stood out to me especially is The Broken Column. This portrait was done in 1944 using oil paints. Shown in this portrait is Frida, she is naked and wearing a body brace. There is a split in the center of her from her neck down. In this split we can see a column in the place of her spine; the column is horribly broken apart and worn out and almost seems ready to fall apart at any moment. We can also see a series of nails sticking out from her skin in places like her face, arms, and torso. There are also tears to be seen running down her face, most likely to express sadness. The message that Frida was trying to convey was a clear one: she was a woman who was in a lot of pain and she pictured her spine to be like a broken column due to the incident with the bus. This is an example of how Frida often made paintings and portraits that were able to show us the type of pain she must have felt due to her accident and many illnesses. An obvious principle of design shown in this piece is variety. There is a variety of different elements working together in this image such as the nails, the body brace, the blanket or cloth, the tears on her face, and the desolate background. Even though there is a variety of different things to note in this portrait, this is still harmony and unity present; everything works together to form a neat and clear piece of artwork. Just like her other works of art, this painting has many vibrant colors as a result of being influenced by the Mexican culture. This painting was one in which people especially began to classify Frida as a surrealist. To me, this piece is more than just about pain, but more about overcoming that pain. Sometimes I can feel like I’m not able to go on, but nonetheless I still try my best to do my best in anything I do. This is what Frida did as well; she may not have always been healthy physically and mentally, but she still tried her best in her artwork and in life.
To conclude, Frida Kahlo was the artist I chose because she was a confident and hardworking woman who sought to do her best in life despite all her troubles. Frida created a total of 200 paintings, most in which were enriched with bright colors inspired by the Mexican culture. She painted many artworks illustrating her emotions and feelings in order to give us an inside view of what she was feeling during her hard times. She documented many things that happened in her life such as her marriage, miscarriages, and her surgeries. This is something that is comforting to many people who are also going through their own struggles, whether it be mentally or physically or both. These people may not only be able to relate to her pain, but also be inspired and encouraged to do their best to also live their lives to the fullest, because Frida did this as well. Frida is a figure in which I can look to when I’m not feeling my best mentally or physically. She gives me and many people hope when we don’t know if we can make it.
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