After returning home from an exhibit in paris, Kahlo divorced Diego Rivera. This painting illustrates a literal split between her two selves is from this period of turmoil and self-doubt. On the right of the painting is the Mexican Frida in traditional clothing. Whilst on the left there is an image of a European Frida in a colonial white dress which I think is intended to be a wedding garb (as its similar to her mothers wedding dress in “Family Tree”). In this image the two women are sitting on a green bench holding hands. The anotomy of their hearts is superimposed on them both; the European self is seen through a hole in her dress at the breast. A blood line originates at the cameo of Diego as a child held by the Frida on the right. This twines between them both and is ultimately terminated by a medical implement held by Frida on the left, whilst blood stains with red flowers intermingle at the hem of the dress. The clouds and look on the two Frida’s faces are juxtaposed with the graphic medical imagery to illustrate her internal conflict. The blood also shows us her pain she went through during all her miscarriages and abortions.Kahlo’s work often refers to powerful mythologies of Mexican identity; the Tehuana woman represented for Kahlo a new positive future of a postcolonial state. The political message of this painting suggests that through adopting an anti-colonial position, a healing of the pains of the past can take place. In the analogy of self and nation, Kahlo characterises her own emotional and physical problems as symptomatic of the post-colonial condition. Thus the European-style wedding gown and the Tehuana dress of the ‘The Two Fridas’ reflect ideological positions as much as the historical realities of Mexico’s past. The famous painting is currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.Frida Kahlo lived in a society that allowed her to aspire to be a listening wife and ideal mother. She used her weak points, her realization in life to gather more strength and stand up from every fall and produce one of the most valuable feminist paintings I have ever seen. Colour was used to provide distinction between the two Fridas. The historical context helped in unveiling the semiotics lying within the artwork. The premises of art were all inscribed in a circle of real-life experiences, stating that this artwork is the outcome of the feelings evoked by an unfortunate women who only dreamed of becoming a wonderful person in her lifetime – which she achieved on her death. Frida Kahlo herself is considered by many as a symbol of strong will, headship and rough individuality.
Frida Khalo 1907-1954
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in
Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. When
she was six years old she contracted polio
which left her with a deformed right foot
and the cruel nickname, “Peg-leg Frida”.
Her original ambition was to be a doctor
but a streetcar accident in 1925 left her
disabled and changed the path of her life.
It was after this accident that Kahlo began
to paint in order to relieve the boredom
during her convalescence.
Frida Kahlo underwent more than thirty
operations in the course of her life, and
most of her paintings relate to her
experiences with physical and
They also chronicle her turbulent
relationship with Diego Rivera, Mexico’s
most famous painter, whom Kahlo met
in 1928 and married in 1929. Rivera was
frequently unfaithful to her.
Kahlo is quoted as saying about the
"There have been two great accidents in
my life. One was the trolley, and the
other was Diego. Diego was by far the
In her ‘Self-Portrait’, Kahlo
portrays herself as a Christ like
victim - the crown of thorns
replaced by a necklace of thorns
with a hummingbird 'medallion'.
This fusion of Christian and Aztec
imagery is common in Mexican
culture: the Aztec god
'Huitzilopochtli' is often depicted
as a hummingbird.
‘The Broken Column’ (1944) is a
metaphor for Kahlo’s own pain. Her
spine is represented by a shattered
stone column. This is visible through
her broken body which is only held
together by a harness. She is naked
and the surface of her flesh is
punctured by sharp nails, recalling
the painful effect of flogging on the
body of Christ in Matthias
Grünewald’s Crucifixion Panel from
the Isenheim Altarpiece.
Silent tears drop from her eyes as she
stands alone in a desolate wasteland
without any sign of hope on the
This is a bleak self image but Kahlo’s
endurance heroically prevails in this
barren landscape of despair.
In the 1950’s, Kahlo’s health
seriously declined and the
technical quality of her work
suffered. Several spinal
operations left her crippled
with pain and she was
confined to a wheelchair.
'Self-Portrait with the Portrait
of Dr. Farill' (1951) shows
Kahlo sitting in her wheelchair
holding her brushes and
palette adjacent to her
painting of her surgeon Dr.
Farill. A section of her heart
replaces the palette on her
lap, while her paintbrushes
drip with blood
In the summer of 1954, Frida Kahlo
died from pneumonia in the house
where she was born. During her
lifetime, she did not enjoy the same
level of recognition as her husband,
Diego Rivera, but today, her explicit,
intensely autobiographical work is as
critically acclaimed as that of her
What do the different objects represent?
Shortly after her divorce from Diego Rivera, Frida completed this
self-portrait of two different personalities
Stormy sky: agitated
clouds may reflect
Frida's inner turmoil
Open hearts: A symbol of Frida’s pain. The
heart of the Frida on the left is broken.
Holding her own
hand, she is her only
Vein: The vein begins
at the amulet, travels
women's hearts and is
finally cut off by the
surgical forceps held
in the lap of the
White dress: This is
a European style
wedding dress and
on her Father’s side
and the part of her
that Diego left.
Cameo: This has a
picture of Diego as a
Red flowers: The
with the red flowers
on her dress.
Surgical forceps: In despair, Frida tries to
stop the flow of blood from Diego but it
keeps dripping, she is in danger of bleeding
Tehuana dress: the
part of her which was
respected and loved
by Diego, is the
Image Analysis: Writing Frame
What has the artist used to make the art work? Consider the materials
and media. Was it meant to be presented in a special way?
TITLE: The Two Fridas
ARTIST: Frida Khalo
Mise en Scene
Write down a list of 5-10 keywords in response to this picture:
Describe what you see as if you were explaining it to someone on a phone.
How does the title of the work contribute to your understanding of the work?
What are the intentions of the artist? What kind of mood is created?
What wider issues do you think the artist is exploring?
What are Khalo’s intentions in this piece? There may be more than one.
‘PEC’ each intention. Level 4/5
Frida Khalo intended to…
She did this by… (describe something in the image)
She wanted us to think / react …
What wider social, political or cultural issues was the Frida Khalo
addressing? Level 6/7
Frida Khalo is considering ______ in this piece of work.
This is shown by _____
She wanted to explore _____
How do the materials and techniques used by the Khalo
contribute to the work and her intentions? Levels 5/6
Frida Khalo has used ______ in creating this work.
This creates a ______ effect.
This helps to support Khalo’s point about _____