Two Fridas Comparison
The Two Fridas is a painting by Mexican renowned artist Frida Kahlo from 1939. Frida is the artist who was known and acknowledged for her creativity, which was heavily inspired by acclaimed artist Diego Rivera. She has been quoted saying that her work is drawn from personal truth and not painting visions (Burrus 88). This implies that she used her paintings as a means of personal reflection. Having endured many traumatizing events in her life, she resorted to painting to escape from boredom. Her initial interest was in medicine. However, a life changing accident, which left her confined to her bed for a year, made her give up this dream and she started painting instead.
This painting was done at the exact time of her divorce from Diego Rivera. Their marriage had lasted for ten short years. The two had fallen in love at the time when he was helping her improve on her paintings. The story of her painful life is most likely the motivation behind the painting and her marriage to Diego. One needs to understand the realities of her life in order to distinguish the two personas in the painting. Other than the accident, she had endured several miscarriages, abortions and more than thirty operations on her body. She often longed for a family life where she would be a wife and mother to many. This was, however, made difficult because of the implications of the accident. It is obvious that she was optimistic from her marriage with Diego, but all she got was frequent infidelity, which ultimately resulted in divorce. Additionally, she was actively involved in politics and loved her country, many times advocating for peasant’s rights.
The painting shows Frida depicted in two different ways. The first Frida wears a white gown, possibly from her wedding with Diego. Opposite her sits the other Frida, adorning a blue frock, common among Mexican peasants with whom she had always associated herself. Both Fridas have their hearts in the open and an artery connects the two. However, the first Frida has her dressed ripped, and her heart is broken and bleeding, with a pair of surgical scissors in hand. She looks sad and worn out, which is in contrast to the other Frida, whose expression is that of contentment. The second Frida also has her heart exposed, but it is whole. The two are holding hands with the second Frida carrying a miniature portrait of Diego.
Various significant comparisons can be drawn from the painting, though, mostly differences. The only similarity between the two Fridas in the painting is that they are both the true Frida Kahlo, with different characters. The first Frida depicts the artist’s suffering. The broken heart is an indication of her failed relationship with her husband whom she loved deeply. The white dress is long and traditional, used to hide her physical insecurities. The surgical scissors prevent blood from dripping out of the artery, which indicates that she is still holding on to her passions such as her career and her family. Additionally, it may also reflect her desire to have a child, a vision shattered by the accident. The stains of blood in her white dress convey the physical aspects of the pain she has endured throughout her life. This Frida is vulnerable, constrained by the reality of her life, which is dominated by painful experiences. She is not confident as she is confined in a life controlled by cultural and societal norms.
Alternatively, a comparison between the two can also be drawn from the ideologies of the artiste. In the first image, Frida is in a dress worn in the west in the previous century (Lindauer et al. 144). Diego was open to western ideologies unlike Frida who loved her country and its ideals. She envisioned herself in the life of the peasants that dominated Mexico. At a time when Mexico had undergone a revolution and had evolved into a patriarchal society, Frida longed for a traditional life as a wife. Diego was eager to implement western societal norms and wanted to show his might by having children, which is one of his major justifications for infidelity. For her failure to conform, she was cast aside and her heart shattered by rejection from her husband; thus, contributing to her life’s sufferings. The surgical scissors would, therefore, be for cutting links with this Diego who shows no understanding to her situation.
The artery and holding of hands is the connection between the two characters of Frida. They signify that both characters belong to the same person, and though different, they reflect a sequence in the artiste’s life. The second Frida is confident and even looks content. It is evident that this is the Frida that the artist wanted to be, one who is not limited by the challenges that life has thrown her way. The portrait of Diego in her hand is held by a cord, symbolically depicting an umbilical cord. This shows that she not only saw Diego as her husband, but also as child for whom she had to take care. This Frida is the one that wants to move on from her past life of sorrow and redeem her. The wholeness of her heart signifies one that has healed and is devoid of the inflictions imposed on the first one. It also reflects a time when she still had Diego’s love, which is partly the reason behind her look of contentment.
Burrus, Christina. Frida Kahlo: painting her own reality. New York, NY: Abrams, 2008. Print.
Lindauer, Margaret A and Frida Kahlo. Devouring Frida: The Art History and Popular Celebrity of Frida Kahlo. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Print.