Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937
Frida Kahlo’s paintings have always been much more than simply depictions of herself or the world around her. Rather her artworks act as a tool of expression, a way for her to visually translate her memories and the complex ideas that ran through her mind.
Her self-portraits in particular are laden with hidden details and rich symbolism that, once unpicked, reveal a deeper insight into the artist. Here, with the help of Art Camera, which has captured these works in incredible detail, we explore eight of Kahlo’s paintings to uncover the hidden meaning within them.
As the title suggests, this painting from 1937 was a gift to Leon Trotsky and commemorates the brief affair Kahlo had with the exiled Russian revolutionary leader shortly after his arrival in Mexico.
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It’s a flattering self-portrait of the artist, where she presents herself dressed elegantly in a long embroidered skirt, shawl and delicate gold jewelry. Her traditional attire alludes to a movement among Mexican artists working during the Revolutionary decade, which saw them reject European influences and return to their country’s roots and folk traditions. This influence can also be seen in the composition of the painting where Kahlo stands on what looks to be a curtained stage. This is reflective of Mexican vernacular paintings called “retablos” that Kahlo collected, which were devotional images of the Virgin or saints painted on tins.
In the painting, Kahlo stands confidently holding a bouquet of flowers and most interestingly a letter to Trotsky. Zooming in, we can see the letter reads: “To Leon Trotsky, with all my love, I dedicate this painting on 7th November 1937. Frida Kahlo in Saint Angel, Mexico”. This portrait comes at the end of the pair’s secret affair, which fizzled out after the summer months when Kahlo “grew tired” of Trotsky.
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