Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portraits


Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits represent how she perceived herself and what influenced them the most were the hardships in her personal relationships and her bus accident. In 1925 Frida Kahlo was severely injured in a bus accident which resulted in several broken bones and crushed spinal column and an iron handrail pierced through her uterus via her abdomen. She was in full body cast for three months and the doctors told her she will never walk again or bare children. In 1926 during her recovery in Red Cross hospital she created a birth certificate for a son she gave birth to after suffering the injuries of her accident.

She named her imaginary son Leonardo and even appointed him God Parents. This shows the strong desire she had to bear a child and her constant heart break and misery because of her miscarriages became a prominent theme in few of her self-portraits. Frida was never fully able to recover from the physical injuries of the accident and the pain haunted her for the rest of her life till the day she dies, making pain a persistent leitmotif in most of her work especially during the final years of her life. Her accident left her alone and isolated for a long period of time while she recovered from the accident. To pass her time during recovery she started to paint and fifty five out of her one hundred and forty paintings are self-portraits. Frida once suggested: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best”. Her words tell about the loneliness she experienced while she was healing and that gave her the chance to get to know herself better.

Kahlo used her self-portraits as a medium to tell the world her life story from her perspective. She created her own brand image by repeating the same bushy uni-brow and traditional Mexican clothing that she often wore. She tried to use her self-portraits to portray the incidents that occurred through the course of her life and her interpretation of those incidents. Frida once commented: “I don’t paint dream, I paint reality”. All her paintings as bizarre as they might be with other worldly images, at core most of her self-portraits represented the events of her life and how she lived through them. Her paintings were meant to showcase the realities of her life, not figments of her imagination.