PORTLAND ART MUSEUM
Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism
Feb 19, 2022 – Jun 5, 2022
Some of my current students were also in class a few years ago when we studied the art of Frida Kahlo and did portraits of her. I did not want to repeat that lesson so to coincide with the new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this month, we created portraits with pets.Frida often featured animals and birds in her in her many self portraits.
Frida Kahlo was an unlikely person to become such a global icon with cult-like status. Behind the Pop Culture images of this very complex artist was a person that became an artist by tragic circumstances. Born near Mexico City to a German father and a Spanish/ Mexican mother, she was interested in both strands of her roots. Her mixed European and Mexican heritage provided life-long fascination in her approach towards both life and art. As a young student she focused on natural science with the aim of becoming a doctor. She was a voracious reader and became deeply immersed and seriously committed to Mexican culture, political activism and social justice. Her aspirations were cut short, and her life was defined by physical limitations. She had polio as a child and as a teenager, Kahlo and a friend were on a bus that collided with a streetcar. She suffered nearly fatal injuries. She spent months recovering in the hospital and at home, confined to bed in a cast. The accident ended her dream of becoming a doctor and caused her pain and illness for the rest of her life. During her recovery, she combined her interest in medical illustration and botany and began to paint utilizing a custom-made easel with a mirror placed above her bed. She painted over 200 self-portraits and figurative paintings, depicting her life and quest for identity in those pictorial diaries.
She is considered one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, as well as one of Mexico's most important figures. Her life was complex and very interesting on a personal and political level and an amazing lesson in fortitude.
In 1939, the Louvre bought Kahlo's “The Frame”, making it the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to be purchased by an internationally renowned museum. Despite such an accomplishment, Kahlo was still known for most of her life, and the 20th-century, as the wife of Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929. Since the 1980s, though, Kahlo has been known for her own merit.
Frida Kahlo was a central figure in the Neomexicanismo Art Movement in Mexico which emerged in the 1970s. Her art has been called folk art due to traditional elements and some call it Surrealist though Kahlo herself said, "They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."
Numerous articles, books, and films have been made about Kahlo's life and art her former home, La Casa Azul, is now a museum. Mexico's Museum of the Fine Arts Palace presented the largest exhibit ever of her paintings honoring the 100th anniversary of her birth.
" Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.
Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.” Frida Kahlo
Frida's portraits were quite surreal, so the students were to create a portrait
with real or imaginary pets. For this
lesson they used watercolor pencils and watercolor crayons.