Frida Kahlo- Surrealist Painter, Cross Term Paper

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[. . .] Painting oneself as having one's fingers cut off may be a clear sign of one's suffering. I will refer in detail to some of her works further below.

As for her relationship with Diego Rivera, I have already mentioned this several times before. In many ways, if we look at her life, her spirit and the way she lived, perhaps Diego Rivera was the only person that could have been her husband.

Objective Critique

Describing and analyzing Frida Kahlo's work is a difficult endeavor, no matter what the circumstances. Any analysis of an artist's work would begin by attempting to include the respective artist in one of the artistic currents of the times. In Frida's case, this is almost impossible. I have mentioned surrealism as the current that has greatly influenced her, however, we need to take a closer look at this.

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Indeed, her paintings do evoke the dream-like world portrayed by surrealists. Her trip to France brings her in contact with some of the preeminent modernists of the period, including Kandinsky (renowned abstract artist) and Picasso. In January 1940, for example, she participates with Diego Rivera to the Exhibition of Surrealism held in Mexico City. On the other hand, it is best to let Frida speak for herself with regards to the influences of her works. She is deemed to have said, for example, that she utterly disliked "this bunch of coocoo lunatic sons of *****es of surrealists" (notice the colored language she generally used) and, even more direct, "they thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."

Term Paper on Frida Kahlo- Surrealist Painter, Cross- Assignment

If we look at this last revelatory statement, we may have a clue towards the inner life and creation of Frida Kahlo. She wasn't a surrealist, not necessarily because her paintings did not have characteristics of this current (indeed, they did, many of her imagery seems to be similar to those in paintings by Dali, for example), but because she identified the dream world with her own life and reality. If surrealism was supposed to be something above the real world, Frida saw nothing beyond real and everything was part of her reality.

Perhaps one of the best expressions of this reality she talks about and that is portrayed in her works is her painting "My Birth," a direct expression of her miscarriage occurred in Detroit.

Indeed, during her days in Detroit, where Diego Rivera was working as a muralist, she became pregnant and soon lost the baby. The painting she paints, however, portrays her own birth, as she bursts out of her mother's vagina. It is quite difficult to describe this painting and remain decent at the same time. The scene is certainly rather gruesome, because of the amount of blood. This also leads us to believe that it has been a painful birth, which is somewhat symbolical because, in a sense, it gives a symbolical expression of Frida's own painful life. The woman having the baby, that may be identified as her mother, is half covered by a white sheet, which could mean that she is dead. In my opinion, this is also a symbolical image: Frida's own motherhood is virtually dead with this miscarriage, as she will not be able to have children for the rest of her life, to her own despair. On final word on her technique in this painting. Notice that the only thing in the room is a bed and a small, unidentifiable painting on the wall. This is one of the techniques Frida uses so as to draw attention to the significant, most important element in the paining: the body giving birth.

One needs to refer to traditionalism and the so- called Mexicanism that Frida Kahlo embraced during her lifetime. Many have considered that this was a result of the Mexican Revolution and the subsequent reforms. Indeed, the Mexican Revolution of 1910 meant a wave of nationalism throughout the country, here including new pride in traditional Mexican culture.

Firda thoroughly embraced this trend and this became obvious with one the self- portraits painted in her early creation period. In "Time Flies," she is dressed in a simple colonial blouse and is wearing traditional earrings and necklace. In Me and My Parrots, painted in 1941, almost the same traditional, white and simple blouse is present, as a juxtaposition with the four colorful parrots.

In other self- portraits, such as Self- Portrait with Loose Hair (1947) or The Frame (1938), her clothes seem to go back to Aztec times. Colorful and rich with traditional motives, they give a true original Mexican imagery.

As Diego Rivera mentions and appreciates, "different critics from various countries have described Frida Kahlo's paintings as the most forceful and the most Mexican of the Present day. I entirely agree with them...."

Mexicanism is also present in many of the symbols that Frida uses in her works. For example, in Henry Ford Hospital and in Double Portrait, Diego and I, there is the symbolic snail, a symbol of vitality and sexuality in the traditional Mexican culture. In the first painting, the snail represents "conception, pregnancy and birth," as the Indians associated the protective shell with maternity.

Many of Firda's paintings are also inspired from the traditional Mexican retablo paintings. These were paintings of small format, generally created on metal and were religious creations of the 19th and 20th century. Even if she doesn't use religious elements in her paintings, the format of several works, as well as some definite retablo characteristics, make us believe that she found them a source of inspiration.

Many of Frida's paintings may seem rather gruesome or at least strange. However, we should always bear in mind her own words about how the paintings represented her own reality and her own suffering. In this sense, the dream projection, usually seen in surrealist works, becomes a reality projection, perhaps in a dream world with symbols and creations.

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo" by Hayden Herrera is considered to be the greatest biography of the great painter. However, a general observation has been made and I think the observation is quite correct.

When describing a character, one generally refers to the internal and the external environment of a person. When writing a biography, the external environment generally is more important and is described more in depth, because you want to include your character in an era, a certain period of time, etc. Herrera seems to rely almost exclusively on Frida's interior environment. The outer world she lives in and the very period of time are somewhat disregarded. Of course, this may be understandable, given the fact that Herrera may have considered Frida's personality much greater than what was actually going on around her.


1. Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo." Harper Collins.

2. Frida Kahlo. On the Internet at

3. Biography of Frida Kahlo. On the Internet at


5. Early Works and Influences. On the Internet at

6. Mencimer, Stephanie. The trouble with Frida Kahlo: uncomfortable truths about this season's hottest female artist. Washington Monthly. June 2002

8. Cummings, Joe. DIEGO, FRIDA AND THE MEXICAN SCHOOL. June 1999. On the Internet at

Biography of Frida Kahlo. On the Internet at

Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. Review on the Internet at

From the Internet at

Frida Kahlo. On the Internet at

Early Works and Influences. On the Internet at

Ibid. Chapter 3 [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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