Frida Kahlo's work placed Mexican art on the international stage. Her style was figurative and self-taught, with elements of the fantastical and an emphasis on her own individual, biographical perspective. Her self-referential art, now a media phenomenon, originated in the development of her portrait painting which, from early on, became her most effective device for expressing a certain unease about exploring her own personality.
In 1938, André Breton labeled Kahlo's work as surrealist, leading to The Two Fridas being exhibited at the International Exhibition of Surrealism, organized by the Gallery of Mexican Art in 1940. This double self-portrait is one of Kahlo's most recognized compositions and is symbolic of the artist's emotional pain experienced during her divorce from Rivera. On the left, the artist is shown in modern European attire, wearing the costume from her marriage to Rivera. Throughout their marriage, given Rivera's strong nationalism, Kahlo became increasingly interested in Indigenism and began to explore traditional Mexican costume, which she wears in the portrait on the right. It is the Mexican Kahlo that holds a locket with an image of Rivera. The stormy sky in the background, and the artist's bleeding heart - a fundamental symbol of Catholicism and also symbolic of Aztec ritual sacrifice - accentuate Kahlo's personal tribulation and physical pain.
Symbolic elements frequently possess multiple layers of meaning in Kahlo's pictures; the recurrent theme of blood represents both metaphysical and physical suffering, gesturing also to the artist's ambivalent attitude toward accepted notions of womanhood and fertility. Although both women have their hearts exposed, the woman in the white European outfit also seems to have had her heart dissected and the artery that runs from this heart is cut and bleeding. The artery that runs from the heart of her Tehuana-costumed self remains intact because it is connected to the miniature photograph of Diego as a child. Whereas Kahlo's heart in the Mexican dress remains sustained, the European Kahlo, disconnected from her beloved Diego, bleeds profusely onto her dress. As well as being one of the artist's most famous works, this is also her largest canvas.
The Two Fridas (Las dos Fridas in Spanish) is an oil painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The painting was the first large-scale work done by Kahlo and is considered one of her most notable paintings. It is a double self-portrait, depicting two versions of Kahlo seated together. One is wearing a white European-style Victorian dress while the other is wearing a traditional Tehuana dress. The painting is housed at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City.
Kahlo painted The Two Fridas in 1939, the same year she divorced artist Diego Rivera, although they remarried a year later. According to Kahlo's friend, Fernando Gamboa, the painting was inspired by two paintings that Kahlo saw earlier that year at the Louvre: Théodore Chassériau's The Two Sisters and the anonymous Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters.
In January 1940, The Two Fridas was exhibited along with The Wounded Table at the International Surrealist Exhibition in Mexico City.
The painting remained in Kahlo's possession until it was acquired by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) in 1947. The INBA transferred it to the Museo de Arte Moderno on December 28, 1966, where it is presently housed.
Some art historians have suggested that the two figures in the painting are a representation of Frida's dual heritage. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was German; while her mother, Matilde Calderon, was Mestizo (a mix of Spanish and Native American). Another interpretation is that the Tehuana Frida is the one who was adored by her husband Diego Rivera, while the European Frida is the one that was rejected by him. In Frida's own recollection, the image is of a memory of a childhood imaginary friend.
Both Fridas hold items in their lap; the Mexican Frida holds a small portrait of Diego Rivera, and the European Frida holds forceps. Blood spills onto the European Frida's white dress from a broken blood vessel that has been cut by the forceps. The blood vessel connects the two Fridas, winding its way from their hands through their hearts. The work alludes to Kahlo's life of constant pain and surgical procedures and the Aztec tradition of human sacrifice. Because this piece was completed by Kahlo shortly after her divorce, the European Frida is missing a piece of herself, her Diego.
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This painting was acquired by the INBA (Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts) directly from the artist in 1947, and transferred to the MAM (Museum of Modern Art) on December 28, 1966.More ...