Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frida Kahlo Painting at The Harry Ransom Center

Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907-1954)
Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940
Oil on canvas, 61.25 cm x 47 cm
Harry Ransom Center

This painting was created just after Frida's marriage to Diego Rivera ended. She was broken hearted and this painting is a significant piece in her body of work because of when she created it and the symbolism held within it. If you'll notice there are three injuries on her neck from the thorns, these represent the three major traumas in her life; her childhood, the accident, and her husband's infidelity.

There are also magical signs, the black cat, the frozen butterflies, the flying flowers, and the dead hummingbird. The hummingbird is actually a known amulet of Venus which was supposed to protect her from the madness of love.

Kahlo (1907-1954) taught herself how to paint after she was severely injured in a bus accident at the age of 18. For Kahlo, painting became an act of cathartic ritual, and her symbolic images portray a cycle of pain, death and rebirth.

Kahlo's affair in New York City with her friend, the Hungarian-born photographer Nickolas Muray (1892-1965), which ended in 1939, and her divorce from the artist Diego Rivera at the end of the year, left her heartbroken and lonely, but she produced some of her most powerful and compelling paintings and self-portraits during this time.

Muray purchased the self-portrait from Kahlo to help her during a difficult financial period. It is part of the Ransom Center's Nickolas Muray collection of more than 100 works of modern Mexican art, which was acquired by the Center in 1966. The collection also includes "Still Life with Parrott and Fruit" (1951) and the drawing "Diego y Yo" (1930) by Kahlo.

"Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's "Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird" (1940) is back on view for a limited time at the Harry Ransom Center. The portrait, one of the Center’s most famous and frequently borrowed art works, will be on exhibit from July 6, 2011 through January 8, 2012.

Since 1990 the Kahlo painting has been on almost continuous loan, featured in exhibitions in more than 25 museums in the United States and around the world. The painting was most recently on view in exhibitions in Berlin, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and Madrid, Spain. It will next be on view in the three-venue exhibition "In Wonderland: The Surrealist Activities of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States," organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). LACMA hosts the exhibition from January 29, 2012 through May 6, 2012. It then travels to the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Quebec in Quebec City, Canada, from June 7 to September 3, 2012 and at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, Mexico, from September 27, 2012 through January 13, 2013." -From the Harry Ransom Center website. Visit the link for more, an interactive map and a documentary video.

1 comment:

  1. My first art class asked us to make a self portrait in a famous artists' style. Like many people I chose this painting with other animals hanging about my face and a spider in the center of my neck. I was inspired that same week when my mom had walked into my room with a huge brown furry spider in the center of her neck and she was clueless to it's presence!