According to many historians and researchers, most of the famous works by Frida Kahlo portray the unique challenges encountered by Mexicans from 1930 to 1960. She used her traumatic experiences to describe the nature of the country’s heritage. From the 1940s, Mexico was keen to establish its cultural identity and get rid of foreign forces. The painting Self Portrait, Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser of 1940, is one of her works that can be used to describe the social, economic, and political forces in which it was created.
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Analysis and Discussion
Analysis of the Painting
The artwork “Self Portrait, Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser” is full of self-possession and beauty. The viewer notices that Frida in her self-portrait has a faint moustache and a demanding stare. She also appears to be unhappy and vulnerable. Vinci (2017) believes that this artwork depicts Frida’s inner feelings. She appears to project a sense of exorcism on a different individual who has been created through the power of art. This kind of approach can be studied as a powerful strategy used by Kahlo to separate herself from any form of pain or suffering (Holzhey 2015). This is something that is linked to the accident that left her incapacitated and incapable of bearing children. This is a clear indication that she painted nothing else but “reality” in this self-portrait.
The subdued colours appear to deliver a meaningful message to the audience. The background is comprised of both dead and living trees. These are used to symbolise the pain experienced by the painter as well as a sense of optimism. The amputated hand that appears to dangle from her ear is a sign of incapacitation (Hamada 2015). With this kind of portrayal, the viewer acknowledges that the person in the portrait is unhappy because of the nature of life. However, she appears to have enough hope for the better.
Social, Political, and Economic Contexts of the Artwork
From a social perspective, the painting by Frida Kahlo appears to depict the major issues affecting the targeted society from 1930 to 1960. The subdued or dull colours used in this work of art appear to expose the challenges and pains encountered by many women and other members of society (Vinci 2017). The issue of women empowerment receives attention from this painting since Kahlo wanted to challenge the existing social practices in Mexico.
During Kahlo’s time, the wave of Marxism appears to take shape in Mexico. This European ideology was a major threat to Mexican nationalism. Through the use of artworks such as this self-portrait, different artists managed to encourage more people to look inwards and focus on the best approaches to support their cultural values and notions (Barbezat 2016). The portrait can also be studied as a form of rebellion against any form of Spanish imperialism. This can be supported by the fact that Frida Kahlo managed to join the Communist Party in an attempt to promote the country’s cultural image.
The portrait goes further to pronounce the superiority of the country’s identity. She appears to demand a united and independent Mexico that focused on the welfare of every citizen (Pickford 2018). The use of a self-portrait appears to encourage more individuals to engage in the power of self-examination and conviction. Her personal struggle (due to her pains and challenges) appears to resonate with the predicaments facing the cultural and social attributes of the Mexicans.
The self-portrait can also be examined as an artwork that attacks or analyses the political environment experienced by the artist (Rosenthal 2015). During the period, Mexico was facing numerous political forces such as capitalism and Americanism. For Frida Kahlo, the wave of communism appeared to be the best deal for the state. This was the case because the idea was capable of promoting national economic development (Tessler 2015). The push would promote the welfare of more people. This concept of communism was capable of taking Mexico to the next level.
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The use of works such as this self-portrait showcases her patriotism and radicalism. The artwork reveals the concept of nationalism that was intended in this country. Kahlo’s serious stare observed in the artwork can be described as a warning that compels people to focus on a better political climate in an attempt to drive economic performance (Kaiser 2012). The intervention by Americans in Guatemala was also something that the artist opposed to. She believed strongly that the unity of the people and the ability to appreciate their situations would result in a better political environment.
It is agreeable that Kahlo utilises her artistic abilities and appropriations to explore the economic issues and challenges experienced in Mexico. On one side, her self-portrait appears to indicate that the existing gender inequality is a problem that makes it impossible for many women to achieve their economic goals (Craik 2003). Many girls and women, unlike her, do not have adequate education. The majority of them have problems getting job opportunities. On the other side, the country’s political situation has led to numerous economic challenges (Novesky 2015). The upheavals and unrests caused by the waves of Americanism and Marxism have destabilised the country’s economic position.
The use of this portrait, therefore, exposes the economic tensions that should be addressed using positive cultural values, identities, and economic programs. Kahlo’s vulnerability can be viewed or matched with the inadequacy of the nation’s economic policies. The sense of self-reflection can also be applied in this nation in an attempt to promote development and transform the experiences and outcomes of every citizen (Barbezat 2016). The people are encouraged to fight against foreign influences and forces in an attempt to support the country’s economy and make it easier for more citizens to achieve their potential.
The use of self-portraits to deliver meaningful ideas and messages to the people made it easier for Frida Kahlo to attain immortality. The artist’s passionate love for the state is what empowered or encouraged Kahlo to transform herself into a cultural figure. Consequently, she managed to illustrate the social, political, and economic upheavals that appeared to affect the outcomes of many Mexicans.
Barbezat, S 2016, Frida Kahlo at home, Frances Lincoln Publishers, London.
Craik, J 2003, The face of fashion, Routledge, London.
Hamada, J 2015, Remake: master works of art reimagined, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.
Holzhey, M 2015, Frida Kahlo: the artist in the blue house, Prestel Publishing, Munich.
Kaiser, SB 2012, Fashion and cultural studies, Bloomsbury, London.
Novesky, A 2015, Me, Frida, Harry N. Abrams, New York.
Pickford, J 2018, ‘V&A’s Frida Kahlo exhibition to showcase works hidden for 50 years’, The Financial Times, Web.
Rosenthal, ML 2015, Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo in Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit.
Tessler, N 2015, Flower and towers: politics of identity in the art of the American “new woman”, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge.
Vinci, V 2017, Frida: the story of her life, Prestel Publishing, Munich.