Who is the artist behind this double portrait?
SFX: Up tempo 1930’s Jazz, the chiming and clatter of San Francisco street cars.
SFX NEWS ANNOUNCER (music underneath suggests an archival Newsreel):
“November 1931, the great Mexican artist Diego Rivera arrives in San Francisco with his young wife to create a magnificent mural. His wife is said to dabble in painting as well.”
Well, we all know Frida Kahlo did more than just “dabble.” She’s one of the most celebrated painters of the 20th century. And this is her portrait, after all. But look who she shows holding the brushes – Diego. We asked artists Rupert Garcia and Amalia Mesa-Bains what else they noticed.
What strikes me quickly is the shoes! The itty bitty shoes of Frida Kahlo in comparison to the almost monumental bootlike footwear by Diego Rivera, and that in a sense metaphorically refers to one could say, their roles in Mexico, where Diego certainly was a …big time muralist… while Frida on the other hand was not quite that…
Well, she was quite young, she spoke almost no English, it was her first trip out of Mexico, and in many ways I think she was still holding on to him – as the painting sort of indicates – to anchor herself.
Although San Franciscans encountered a different Frida:
SFX: Music, raucous laughter rises under next comment
The remembrances that people had of her then were her absolutely ribald and very graphic sense of humor, that she loved to sing and play music.
SFX: sounds of Chinatown street market
There are stories of her shopping in Chinatown for her skirts. Can you imagine seeing her on Grant Street in her traditional folk dress?
SFX: Trolley car passes
Frida was canny about her image, and emphasized different aspects of her identity in her many self-portraits. Here, she’s deliberately showing herself first and foremost as Diego’s wife.
SFX: romantic music
The blue shirt on Diego Rivera is beautiful.
SFX: music rises
The way in which Frida very carefully and delicately modulates the blues on that shirt, there’s a lot of love in that shirt.
This is a vertical oil on canvas painting of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo standing side-by-side, holding hands. The painting was made by Kahlo herself, and measures a little over 3 feet high by 2 ½ feet wide.
Diego Rivera stands on the left, and Frida Kahlo on the right. Diego’s head and feet nearly hit the top and bottom edges of the canvas, as if he’s almost too big to fit inside the picture. His legs look like massive architectural columns, rooted to the ground by heavy work boots. His hair is dark, and he wears a simple blue denim shirt. In his right hand, he holds a fresh palette and four paintbrushes. His other hand joins Frida’s at the very center of the picture. Her delicate hand rests on top of his, their fingers barely touching. Her head is tilted toward him, but she looks straight out of the canvas locking eyes with the viewer. Her signature eyebrows are heavy and dark, joining together above her nose. Her black hair is wrapped in braids on top of her head. She wears a green folk dress with a ruffle at the bottom. Her shoulders are wrapped in a bright red shawl with fringe. Tiny, doll-like slippers peek out from below her skirt. It seems like Frida might just float away if she weren’t anchored to the big man standing next to her.
At the top of the painting, a golden bird with grey-tipped wings carries a banner in its beak. The ribbon reads in Spanish “Here you see us, me, Frieda Kahlo, with my adored husband Diego Rivera; I painted these portraits in the lovely city of San Francisco, California, for our friend, Mr. Albert Bender, in April of 1931.”
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