Pain and Suffering in “The Broken Column” by Frida Kahlo
“The Broken Column”, a self-portrait, was created by Frida Kahlo in the year of 1944. This artwork was painted just after Kahlo had undergone a spinal operation. The surgery had left her unable to do much activity and bounded by a metal corset, which helped to lessen the severe and endless pain that she was in. In the painting she is portrayed standing up surrounded by a dry, broken landscape. A fractured column that looks as if it is close to collapsing has replaced her spine. This portrait demonstrates the motivation of the artist to demonstrate to the audiences the struggle she experienced during the period of time that her surgery took place. The main points being discussed are the colours in the painting and the shapes used to portray the pain and suffering she dealt with. Her inspiration is the pain that she endured during this time in her life.
Kahlo used different colours to communicate an idea of darkness. The colour palate was limited but included both warm and cool colours in her self-portrait. The colours include blue, brown, yellow, red and orange. The colours contained both shades and tints of the colours described. The sky is a blue which has high value on the left and low value on the right. The red tint colour of Kahlo attracts attention compared to the background of the picture, and the hair and ‘broken’ column have a very strong dark colour. Frida has also painted herself with shadows around her eyes, the breasts and blanket. There is added amounts of black (tint), so the shade is dulled. The cracks in the ground (behind her) are a green and yellow combination with very low levels of intensity. The blanket and straps are white where the straps have a highest value and intensity than the blanket. Her hair similarly has some shadows where the black is in its highest value and there is a perception of light. The colours used create another perspective. The cold colours of blue, brownish and yellow make the background appear far away. The colours of the woman, which are reddish, orange, and make the woman look closer. The shadows around her eyes may communicate the idea that she is very tired, possibly exhausted, from the events of her life, such as her accident. The shades and tints create lower intensity and value throughout the whole art piece. Using a limited palate to communicate the feeling behind the image, allowed the audience to understand the pain and suffering behind her paintbrush.
The shapes used in “The Broken Column” are mostly organic and associated with the natural world, with the human form being three dimensional and centred in the painting to draw your attention to the shape of the woman. A rectangular shape around the top can be observed, the sky, which is a negative space. Other negative shapes are the two triangles of earth that go on both sides of the picture. The organic shape of the woman is in the centre and it is a positive space. Details in the nails may imply sharp and metallic textures.
Frida is three-dimensional (3D) and also includes other shapes such as the shape of her head, eyes, mouth and nose. The shapes are very distinct, hard-edged, and concrete (especially the hard Earth behind her). Only her blanket, hair, and breasts portray softness.
Placing the image of herself in the centre of the painting is common in paintings where the desire is to draw the eye to the 3D shape. The shapes in this painting are based on forms of nature. The shape of Frida Kahlo is the dominant one in the art piece which demonstrates that she is the main focus and the onlooker/s all bring their attention to her. Shapes suggest that Frida is lonely, vulnerable, exposed and in pain, but also that she is strong. The column may suggest that even after surgery and with the pole inside her that may hold her up, she is stronger. This can be implied because Frida looks to be holding herself up pretty well, disregarding the nails etc., whereas, the column is broken and sharp-edged. Using organic shapes, particularly the human form placed in the centre of the painting demonstrate that she is the main focus of this painting. It highlights the suffering that she went through.
Kahlo, in her piece, The Broken Column communicates with intent by using colours and shapes to convey the darkness she experienced. This darkness is the pain and suffering she endured and she has used organic shapes to show the human form suffering. The painful image is highlighted with a limited palate of colours but are realistic when showing herself crying and ensuring understanding of the audience with the use of a column to reflect her broken spine.
Frida Kahlo – an Artist of the Early 1900s
Certain landscapes can touch the individual, affecting them not only on a physical, but personal and emotional level. Often when painting, artists exploit powerful stories of landscapes in a subjective manner, either purposely or accidentally manipulating audience impressions. Frida Kahlo, an artist of the early 1900s, consistently exerted her influence by transcending her personal pain and emotional suffering through cultured symbols. Kahlo’s Mexican ancestry had a strong influence on how and why she painted. Her use of signs, symbols and codes to represent her heritage were used as visual language to exploit her mutilation and trauma.
Kahlo’s autobiographical piece, Self Portrait with Monkey, represents the indelible emotional bonds that her native country tied to her. The dense symbolic Mexican imagery; monkeys, braided hair and indigenous costumes, indicated the influence that her country had throughout her profound experiences. Kahlo used a variety of complex imagery, ranging from indigenous sources such as European-derived colonial precedents, as well as Aztec and Christian symbolism. She included this imagery in a desire to revalue metaphors and create new and different perceptions. Kahlo was mesmerized by the importance that monkeys played in Aztec’s world. They were represented as gods of fertility; a topic that highly intrigued Kahlo. The monkeys were a perfect symbol of transgressive sexuality and fertility. They were known for their audacious lasciviousness.
Kahlo’s painting style was careful and controlled, with each insignificant stroke creating a stark contrast to the subversive and violent motifs. Kahlo’s physical suffering; the horrific traffic accident, extensive injuries, several miscarriages and amputation, encouraged her depression and emotional turmoil. Kahlo explored the depths of her personal stress by painting images she knew best. Her cultural metaphors and symbols allowed the audience to understand her and her countries social values.
Critics later would baffle Frida as a surrealist, but she constantly denied to be part of that movement, “I thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams, I painted my own reality.”. Kahlo did not simply rely on her physical damage for subject matter, but the emotional construction of herself. Her paintings were of her own psychic state of mind. Their flamboyancy was so personal and self-referential that it helped women with prejudice overcome adversity, feeling the need to paint their own lives.
Through Kahlo’s physical damage, she learnt and understood herself on a deeper level; spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Her Mexican heritage helped Kahlo open up, and the Mexican landscape became integral to her emotional journey documented on her canvases. Kahlo’s physicality in the landscape is fundamental to her emotional experience. An individual’s emotional damage can be a symptom of the significance that the landscape presents.
Analyzing How Self is Presented in Judith Leyster’s Painting Self Portrait and Frida Kahlo’s the Two Fridas
Presentation of Self/Female Self-Portraiture
I have chosen the theme “Presentation of Self/Female Self-Portraiture”(Which I’ll call the “Selfie” theme), and will do my best to evaluate two relevant artworks in the forthcoming essay. To be precise, I will be honing in on two portraits of what we might relate to as “Selfies” in today’s society. To begin, I have chosen a painting by Judith Leyster that is titled Self Portrait. Judith literally painted a portrait of herself painting in 1630. To further my evaluation of self-portraiture, I have also chosen a portrait by Frida Kahlo called The Two Fridas painted in 1939 where Frida painted two separate images of herself holding hand, but in different attire. My goal is to portray how these two paintings compare to the “Selfie” theme even though they were created 3 centuries apart from two artist from very different cultural backgrounds. I will also compare both works to the “Selfie” phenomenon that has riddled today’s social media.
Judith Leyster’s, oil painting Self Portrait, depicts Judith Leyster herself in the middle of painting another famous painting of hers called Merry Company according to National Gallery of Art. In the foreground, the painting shows Judith Leyster casually looking back at the viewer with a confident look. The background of the painting shows the unfinished Merry Company. it more of a darker tone to put more focus on Judith Leyster to show her personality and wit as an artist. Frida Kahlo’s painting, The Two Fridas, also express her personality like Judith Leyster. Painted with oil on a canvas, Frida shows both sides of herself. On the left, she is show in a white, European style dress. The Frida on the right is in a more traditional Mexican dress. Both Fridas have their heart displayed on their chest. The Frida’s heart on the right is open while the one on the left is closed. One heart is connected to a picture of her ex-husband to show that her heart is still connected to him according to Khan Academy. The other Frida shows the artery that should have been connected to the picture has been clipped and is bleeding out onto her white dress.
According to the National Gallery of Art, Judith Leyster’s Self Portrait was created during the Dutch Baroque period in 1630. The portrait was a self-promotion of her showing her product and skill. Judith Leyster’s Self Portrait is now located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Frida Kahlo was a similar strong female artist. Frida Kahlo’s, The Two Fridas created in 1939, was painted after she divorced her husband Diego Rivera according to Khana Academy. It is also said that both Frida’s represent her parents and her parents’ background. The Two Fridas can now be viewed in the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, Mexico.
Although centuries apart, Judith Leyster and Frida Kahlo are very similar in their need for self-preservation. They’re both strong females trying to either advertise themselves like Judith Leyster or preserving an emotional moment in time like Frida Kahlo. Both women use their self-portraits to preserve their strong female selves.
Judith Leyster and Frida Kahlo’s paintings compare to today in Postmodernism because it is human nature to preserve oneself whether it’s a moment in time or the need to preserve a milestone like a high school graduation photo. High school graduation photos in my case are a good representation of self-portraits in postmodern society. The photos don’t have to be formal but still shows a great representation a strong female graduation from high school. Self-preservation will always be a necessity through time.
Judith Leyster and Frida Kahlo’s portraits are a great representation of self-portraits and self-preservation. Even though the artist and art pieces were created centuries apart they are very similar in showing the strong willed females that they are. Judith Leyster used her photo to advertise her skill and product while Frida Kahlo used her self-portrait to show her moment strong moment in time after her divorce from Diego Rivera. These women’s photos are a cultural example that lives on today. Today you might find self-portraits in photos like portraits of milestones or a silly “selfie” from a social media site. Self-portraits are and forever will be a part of art.