“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint,” once said renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) describing at the same time her suffering and passion for painting.
Kahlo was born to a Hungarian German father and a mestizo mother in a suburb near Mexico City. She sublimated unbearable physical pain to create beautiful art. She suffered from polio when she was six and her right leg did not fully develop. It was far too thin and short compared to the other leg. She wanted to hide her right leg and always wore pants. She suffered another blow at 18 when she was involved in a traffic accident while taking a bus. Her spine was crushed and her hips were broken into three pieces. She had a total of 32 surgeries, including seven spine surgeries, during her life time.
Suffering from the pain of disability and from the traffic accident, she started to portray herself in her paintings. Lying on a bed, she painted the image of herself reflected in a mirror. Out of the 143 paintings she made during her life time, 55 are self-portraits. Dark, thick eyebrows, glaring eyes looking intensely to the front and red lips are typical of her self-portraits. Her physical pain and suffering are expressed in her self-portraits in a surrealistic manner.
“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best,” she once said.
Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self-Portrait With Monkeys’ (1943).
The paintings made by world-famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo will now be shown in Korea for the first time. The Frida Kahlo exhibit will be held at the Seoul Olympic Museum of Art (SOMA) at the Olympic Park in Songpa District in southern Seoul, from June 6 through September 4. The exhibition will present 70 artifacts, including Kahlo’s paintings, photographs and letters, as well as ten works by her husband, Diego Rivera (1886-1957), another major Mexican artist.
Six of Kahlo’s self-portraits will be shown at the exhibition. “Self-Portrait With Monkeys” shows the image of Kahlo with four monkeys clinging on to her. The monkeys symbolize four students she taught.
The relationship between Kahlo and her husband Rivera is projected as if it is a my thin the painting “The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Señor Xólotl.” In the painting, Kahlo wears red and holds Rivera as if he is a baby. An Earth goddess holds them both in her arms.
Frida Kahlo’s ‘The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego and Señor Xólotl’ (1949).
Twelve years after Kahlo started painting, her works were shown for the first time at a group exhibition at a university gallery in Mexico City. French Surrealist painter Andre Breton saw her works and was very impressed, making compliments, and this led her to international fame. In the same year, the Louvre Museum purchased one of Kahlo’s self-portraits, making her the first Latin American female artist whose work was shown at the Louvre. Kahlo also lived a life full of ups and downs. She later met Russian Communist theorist Leon Trotsky, sculptor Isamu Noguchi and photographer Nickolas Muray and fell in love with them all.
Due to the after effects of the traffic accident, Kahlo was constantly in and out of hospital. Despite a doctor’s warning, she took part in a demonstration along with Rivera to support the Guatemalan president and caught pneumonia. Kahlo passed away ten days later on July 13, 1954, as her husband Rivera stood by her side, ending a life of pain, love and hatred.
‘Self-Portrait with Necklace'(top) and ‘Diego on My Mind (Self-Portrait as Tehuana).’
The works on display belong to the Jacque and Natasha Gelman Collection. They are possessions of the Vergel Foundation, based in New York. Kahlo’s works are considered some of Mexico’s national assets and are only now allowed to go abroad. The exhibit became possible after the Mexican government’s approval.
Entrance the exhibit costs KRW 13,000 for adults, KRW 10,000 for middle and high school students and KRW 6,000 for children. For more information, please visit the exhibit’s homepage (www.frida.kr) or call 02-801-7955.
By Limb Jae-un
Korea.net Staff Writer
Photos: Vergel Foundation
Diego Rivera’s ‘Sunflowers’ will also be shown at the exhibition.
Diego Rivera’s ‘Calla Lily Vendor.’