Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to see Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition at Art Gallery of New South Wales (the exhibition catalogue above). I have always been fascinated by Frida Kahlo’s work as well as her relationship to Diego Rivera. This was a rare chance to see masterpieces from them both.
The exhibition presents 33 artworks from the renowned collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman, including Natasha Gelman’s portraits done by Diego Rivera. Alongside Kahlo’s self-portrait paintings, drawings and major examples of Diego Rivera’s canvas paintings are over 50 photographs, some videos and their letters. Here I have some of my favourite photos from the exhibition but you can view the other ones on my photo blog.
The only artist in the history of art who tore open her chest and heart to reveal the biological truth of her feelings.
Diego on my mind (Self-portrait as Tehuana) 1943
Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.
Self-portrait with braid 1941 (above)
Frida Kahlo painted Self-portrait with braid shortly after she married Diego Rivera in 1940. She portrays herself covered only by a grapevine, a symbol associated with the Roman god Bacchus and often used by the artist to symbolise everlasting love. The Fantastic braid references a hairstyle worn by young women from the Chinantla region of Oaxaca. Kahlo’s exaggerated version is fashioned into the shape of a lemniscate, the symbol for infinity.
To be an artist, one must… never shirk from the truth as he understands it, never withdraw from life.
Self-portrait with monkeys 1943 oil on canvas (above)
In 1943 Frida Kahlo was appointed professor at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking. For Kahlo, who had not received any formal art education, this was an exceptionally high honour. In Self-portrait with monkeys the viewer is caught in a stare that is at once proud and all too aware of the irony of her appointment. Her white blouse, a traditional outfit worn by Yalalag women of her mother’s native Oaxaca province, is fastened with tassle of a doctoral cap. This painting is also arguably the earliest manifestation of ‘Fridamania’, with the four adoring monkeys representing a group of students who so admired their teacher that they became known as ‘Los Fridos’.
They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
I guess I’m not done yet with the exhibition. Thinking of going back during the week perhaps but definitely after I’ve read the catalogue.