Frida Kahlo : Self Portrait Paper

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Throughout the years, I have heard about Frida Kahlo, but I have never known facts about her. With this assignment, I have had the opportunity to learn about her and her artwork. In this photo self-portrait assignment, I will be discussing the artist, and the masterwork I have chosen, and the movement this artist practiced. The masterwork I will be talking about belongs to Frida Kahlo. This self-portrait of hers is from 1940. In this self-portrait, she is positioned in a symmetrically rigid, frontal pose, surrounded by various elements.

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She is wearing a white shirt, she has a thorn necklace and black hummingbird, and she also has a black monkey on her right shoulder and a black panther on her left shoulder. Her hair is in an updo and she has a few butterflies. Behind her, there is some green and yellow leaves and a brief peek of a blue sky. I chose this self-portrait of Frida Kahlo because it significantly interprets her persona and it has many iconographies which also characterize who she was. I feel I can identify with her in many characteristics of her life and artwork. In the few next paragraphs, I will be discussing the life of Frida, the art movement, the specific piece of art I chose, and finally, I will go over the stages I took to make my artwork.

Frida Kahlo’s real name is Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón. She was born in Coyoacán, Mexico on July 6, 1907, in “La Casa Azul” a small blue house where she lived most of her life. Frida’s father, Guillermo Kahlo, a man of German descent, was very well known and recognized as a photographer. Soon after he became widowed, he rushed to marry Frida’s mother Matilde Calderon, a native-born Mexican of Spanish and Indian descent. In Guillermo’s second marriage, they had four daughters; Matilde, Adriana, Cristina, and Frida. When Frida was age six, she contracted polio, which caused her to be in bed for more than nine months. This did not stop her. In school, she was known to be brave and very outspoken. Frida’s dad was her biggest fan and encouraged her to play sports even if it was not very common for women to play in this era. When she was in school, she saw muralist Diego Rivera painting a mural in her school’s auditorium and she felt a huge fascination with him and wanted to marry him even if she was twenty years younger than him. Time went by.

One summer afternoon of 1925, she and some of her classmates were heading home from school. They got on a bus, but unfortunately had a terrible accident. A trolley car crashed the bus they were riding and was cut in half. Frida was seriously injured. She got her left shoulder dislocated, two broken ribs, three fractures in her spine, three fractures in her pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, and left leg was dislocated and crushed. From this moment, her pains and struggles would become the main focus in her life. She was hospitalized for a month and then followed a long recovery at home. Doctors told her she may never walk again or have children. She was also forced to use a plaster corset; this caused her to be immobile and she could only lay in her bed. This is when she began to paint as therapeutic. She stole some oil paints from her father and her mother paid someone to make her a personalized easel. Painting became one of her weapons she used to fight away her biggest struggles and depression in a life of love, and of feelings she had because of her physical appearance. By 1928, Frida had recovered from the terrible accident. Regrettably, her dream to be a doctor had died out and she never went back to school, though she continued to paint at home. By her early twenties, she had a clear political position. She was seriously dedicated to her ideals and considered herself to be a communist. She attended communist meetings. This is where she saw Diego Rivera again.

One year later, in August 1929, they got married. Frida was Diego’s third wife out of four. They were known as the elephant and the dove because he was a big guy and Frida looked much smaller next to him. Diego Rivera had many affairs while he was married with Frida. He had an affair with Frida’s younger sister Cristina Kahlo. Frida also had an affair with Leon Trotsky early in the summer of 1937. Shortly after, Frida and Diego got a divorce in 1940. This was a another painful situation in her life that would play a great part in her drawings. Frida and Diego remarried in 1941, one year after they got divorced, but this time with Frida’s condition that they could date anyone they wanted. Another thing they did was they lived in two separate homes with only a bridge connecting the two. Frida would date both men and women. These major events in her life, like contracting polio when she was young, and struggling with medical issues and her horrible accident, and living with the affairs, made Frida more liberal and not afraid of expressing what she felt or what she had in her mind.

Frida was a Mexican Surrealist painter. Surrealism began in the early 1920’s. Surrealism is a art form in which the artist combines unrelated images or events in a very strange and dreamlike way. Frida is considered surrealist because her paintings are highly influenced by indigenous Mexican culture; you can see this in her vibrant colors and dramatic symbolism. She did not call herself surrealist because she said [she] doesn’t paint her dreams she only paints her reality”. Multiple examples of her work are self-portraits that symbolically express her own pain and sexuality. She often painted a monkey in her paintings, which was a symbol of strong sexual desire.

Moving forward, for this project I have chosen to talk about Frida Kahlo’s “Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”. This self-portrait Frida painted has an abundance of symbolism. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this paper in this self portrait Frida is positioned in a symmetrically rigid, frontal pose, surrounded by various elements. Frida is staring at the audience and her facial expression is emotionless, yet the art itself is very dramatic and expressive because of the form she used the colour, lines and unique selection of subjects. She is wearing a white blouse, she has a thorn necklace and dangling black hummingbird. The thorn on the necklace are piercing her neck causing her to bleed. She also has a black monkey on her right shoulder who is focused on the necklace. A black panther on her left shoulder is staring at the viewer of the painting. Her hair is in an updo and she has a few butterflies. Behind her, there is some large green and yellow leaves and a brief peek of a blue sky. Like I have mentioned there is a lot of meaning in Frida’s self-portrait for example the thorn necklace is miming the crown that Christ wore at the Crucifixion indicating pain and suffering. The black hummingbird in Mexican culture

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Frida Kahlo : Self Portrait Paper. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved from