Frida Kahlo Self-Portrait – 1940


Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, Frida Kahlo, 1940.


            Frida Kahlo de Rivera (born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón) was a Mexican painter who is best known for her self-portraits. She lived from 1907 to 1954, and her work has been seen as a symbol of Mexican national and indigenous tradition as well as a feminist icon due to her uncompromising, honest portrayal of the female experience and body. Many of her paintings are a result of her marriage with another famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera.  This particular painting is titled Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. It was completed in 1940 and currently resides in the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. In this painting, she wears a crown of thorns and wears it as a necklace, presenting herself as a Christina martyr. The thorns digging into her neck are a symbol of the pain she still feels as a result of her messy divorce from Diego Rivera. A dead hummingbird with outstretched wings hangs from the necklace. According to Mexican folk tradition, dead hummingbirds were used as charms to brings luck in love. There is also a black cat on her shoulder, a symbol of bad luck and death. Butterflies around her hair represent the Resurrection.  In this painting and others, she combines traditional symbols of indigenous Mexican culture—as also seen in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism, and primitive style—with a surrealist style. During her lifetime, she created over two hundred paintings, drawings, and sketches that related to her experiences in life. She has been described as Frida has been described as: “…one of history’s grand divas…a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker, bi-sexual that hobbled about her bohemian barrio in lavish indigenous dress and threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda, Nelson Rockefeller, and her on-again, off-again husband, muralist Diego Rivera.”  Today, her paintings fetch more money than any other female artist and she remains an important icon in Latin American history. 


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