Lectures are in the ArtsHouse: 10.45 for morning members: 13.30 for afternoon members.



14 December Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)

Reflections of a Life on Canvas.

By Sian Walters.

Frida Kahlo is unique as a female artist who painted her autobiography on canvas. Her love of clothes is shown in paintings such as Tehuana 1943 where she represents herself in Mexican dress with a typical head dress which Sian told us was actually a petticoat worn around the head! The Mexicans did not realise what the petticoat was when the garments were washed up onshore after a shipwreck! Frida depicts herself in long dresses as she had polio as a child and wanted to hide her deformed foot. Roots surround her head symbolising her roots to her country and there is a portrait of a man stamped on her forehead. It is of Diego Riviera who was her husband for 25 years. In this painting they had just reconciled after divorcing and she is showing he is literally on her mind.

She was very close to her father and painted him in sepia colours as he was a photographer. He had encouraged her in her ambition to become a doctor but after a terrible accident- shown in “The Accident” of 1924- rendering her bedridden for long periods and unable to have children she expressed herself through paintings which frequently show her medical interest. In “My Grandparents, my Parents and I” in 1936 she paints a family tree with her parents in the centre, herself as a little girl and red ribbon, her blood tie, linking her to her grandparents. She also shows herself as an egg then an embryo. The classic painting “The Two Fridas of 1939 depicts Frida as loved in a white dress, similar to one of her mother’s, and a Frida, unloved, in traditional dress. It was the year of her divorce and it shows her heart being literally torn out of her by him. She holds a cameo of him in one hand. One of the Fridas is pretty, the other is masculine looking. It is almost as if she has become both man and woman as Diego has left her.

When she travelled with him to Detroit she paints herself standing on the boundaries of Mexico and the United States in the 1932 painting called “The Borderline.”Mexican red soil and foliage on one side is contrasted with the stars and stripes obscured by cloud on the other where there is pollution, dirt and ugliness. She even painted an amputated foot when she had to lose her part of her own leg. Her last painting completed days before her death depicts the Mexican flag colours in a bowl of fruit and has a sense of optimism about it.  She was influenced by Van Eyck, Michelangelo and others and was admired by artists such as Picasso. Her paintings are full of contrasts; pain, joy, marriage, separation, beauty and ugliness but there is always a sense of determination. She commented that,” I never painted dreams. I only ever painted my own reality.”