Frida Kahlo “Frieda and Diego Rivera”

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Frida Kahlo is a Mexican artist known for her self-portrait paintings based on political and societal standings from her culture. Kahlo was also known for being herself and being independent and influenced many Mexican women to do the same and be an activist for women. Her work was inspired by Mexico’s popular culture and \ adapted to a naive folk-art style to explore identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in the society she lived in. Frida was married to a man named Diego Rivera (1886-1957) from 1929 to 1939. Eventually they got a divorce, but they married again the following year, 1940, until her death. Kahlo took her first trip outside of Mexico to San Francisco, accompanying her husband, she was painting in the United States, working on three murals. This is where she painted Frieda and Diego Rivera, (1931) and is currently displayed in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.

Kahlo used her trauma, culture, and relationship with her family to display symbolism in her artwork and how working by herself gave her ability to make art. Before Frida was in a terrible car accident that put her in a full body cast for several weeks, she was enrolled in a Pre-Med program at one of the top schools in Mexico City where her life changed forever at just 18 years old. She once said, “I paint myself because I am often alone, and I am the subject I know best”. Frida’s injuries were so severe that she had up to more than 30 surgeries and was unable to have children. Frida was born three years before the Mexican revolution had started and would sometimes say that she was born the year it started, so she could begin her life in the modern time era of Mexico.

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The subject of this painting is Kahlo and her husband Diego. In her other works, she would have colorful and lush backgrounds that would dominate the work, but in this one, there is not anything in the background to distract the attention from the couple. The nature of this artwork is to portray this couple and their first years of their marriage. Kahlo portrays their great love for each other with how they are holding hands but have a serious and stern expression on their faces. The painting of the position of where the subjects are placed shows the status of the woman and man in their society and how being a women doesn’t have many advantages and roles as a man has. She does not focus on her identity as a painter but representing Kahlo as a wife and supporter of an artist. This was true about her life in which she was in the shadows of Rivera and her status as a painter was not recognized internationally until when she had passed away.

The pigeon above Kahlo in the painting carries a banderole[footnoteRef:1] that states: “Here you see us, me, Frida Kahlo?, with my beloved husband Diego Rivera, I painted these portraits in the beautiful city of San Francisco, California, for our friend Mr. Albert Bender, and it was the month of April of the year 1931.” Kahlo inscribed many of these across the top or bottom of her paintings. They served to either identify the subjects, the purpose, or the meaning of the paintings. [1: A narrow flag like object, in particular

This was the first time in a painting where she wore a style of dress that was typical of “La Mexicana”[footnoteRef:2]. Kahlo wore this style of attire a lot and was painted in many of her works soon after, because Diego preferred it and she wanted to please him. She was also able to hide the physical deformity of her right leg with this style. Her boldly colored clothing, detailed jewelry, and flush colored cheeks makes her the more vibrant and appealing figure between the two. She is the one who draws and holds the viewers’ attention. [2: Mexican Woman

Rivera, being portrayed as a painter, holds a palette and four paint brushes in his right hand while Kahlo has her head tilted towards him. In this portrait he is physically much larger than Kahlo and looms over her. This also shows her as the supporter and wife of Rivera. Kahlo was so in love with Rivera that she would be okay with his affairs. She would even go as far as calling them comrades. Rivera would paint nude women and then have affairs with them right after. Kahlo remarked that she would let him play matrimony with other women and that Rivera was not anybody’s husband and never will be. She wanted to be his favorite comrade because their marital bond was the turning point of her life. Kahlo painted this piece as a statement of her marriage. Some scholars say that it shows how much she loved him, but how it was hardly the picture of uncomplicated marital bliss.

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Frida Kahlo “Frieda and Diego Rivera”. (2021, Mar 13). Retrieved from