In my last post, I introduced the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and discussed her early life. You can click here to read it if you missed it. Before I continue with her life story and her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, I’d like to share some famous Frida Kahlo works and quotes.
Famous Works of Frida Kahlo
As I mentioned in the last post, Frida Kahlo began painting as a way to pass the time while she was recovering from the many injuries she suffered in a bus accident. Most of her early works were self-portraits. In fact, she once said “Me pinto a mí misma, porque soy a quien mejor conozco” (I paint myself because that’s who I know best). Early on, she mainly drew inspiration from European Renaissance artists like Sandro Botticelli.
La primera pintura de Frida Kahlo se llama Autorretrato con traje de terciopelo (Frida Kahlo’s first painting is called Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress). Painted in 1926, it was a nod to Botticelli’s painting “The Birth of Venus.” Click here to see it and read more about it.
Another of her famous self portraits is Autorretrato con collar de espinas (Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird). Painted in 1940 shortly after her divorce from Diego Rivera, there’s a lot of symbolism in this painting. In it, she wears thorns around her neck that are held by a monkey. There’s a lifeless hummingbird attached to the necklace, and a black cat looming over her shoulder. Check out this short video for an interesting description of this painting:
One of my personal favorite self portraits of hers is titled Autorretrato en la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos (Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States). It depicts Frida standing on the border in between her native land and the place where she and Diego lived for a few years. That just so happens to be my hometown of Detroit, where he was working on a mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It shows her distaste for the capitalist culture of the US and her longing to return to Mexico. Here’s a great video about this famous painting of hers:
Perhaps her most famous self portrait is Las dos Fridas (The Two Fridas). They wear different style dresses, one traditionally Mexican and one more European. Both have exposed hearts, one of which is broken. If you look closely, you’ll see that the one on the right clutches a tiny picture of Diego Rivera. You can learn more about this masterpiece by watching this informative video from Great Art Explained:
Not all of her works were self portraits, though. One of her notable paintings called El camión (The Bus) shows a group of passengers on a bus. They represent the different social classes of Mexico at the time, including a blue-eyed gringo in a suit clutching a bag of money. This painting clearly shows the influence that Diego had on Frida and her artwork. To view this painting and read more, click here.
In addition to being an incredibly gifted painter, Frida Kahlo was also quite the wordsmith. Here are some of her most famous quotes in both Spanish and English so you can learn from them:
“Pies, ¿para qué los quiero si tengo alas para volar?”
Feet, why would I want them if I have wings to fly?
“Soy una paisana de ceño fruncido, aunque llevo flores y tonos coloridos.”
I’m a country woman who frowns, even though I wear flowers and colorful tones.
“Bebo para olvidar, pero ahora… no me acuerdo de qué.”
I drink to forget, but now… I can’t remember what.
“Hay que ser sinceras, sin dolor no podemos vivir las mujeres.”
We have to be honest: women can’t live without pain.
“Intenté ahogar mis dolores, pero ellos aprendieron a nadar.”
I tried drowning my sorrows, but they learned to swim.
“Me pinto a mí misma, porque soy a quien mejor conozco.”
I paint myself because that’s who I know best.
“Lo que no me mata, me alimenta.”
What doesn’t kill me, nourishes me.
“Nunca pinto sueños o pesadillas. Pinto mi propia realidad.”
I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.
“Yo sufrí dos accidentes graves en mi vida, uno en el que un autobús me tumbó al suelo. El otro accidente es Diego; Diego fue el peor.”
I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One where a bus tossed me to the ground. The other accident is Diego; Diego was the worst.
“Doctor, si me deja tomar este tequila le prometo no beber en mi funeral.”
Doctor, if you let me drink this tequila, I promise I won’t drink at my funeral.
For a good Spanish listening exercise, you can hear a few of these and several others read aloud in this short video:
I hope you enjoyed this post taking a closer look at Frida Kahlo’s paintings and quotes. I’ll continue to tell the story of her life in the next post. For now I have a few questions for you:
¿Cuál es tu pintura favorita de Frida Kahlo?
What is your favorite painting by Frida Kahlo?
¿Cuál es tu frase favorita de Frida Kahlo?
What is your favorite Frida Kahlo phrase?