Frida Kahlo: the Dove and the Elephant
Over 85 years ago on August 21 1929 Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera married in Coyoacan, Mexico.
She was 22 years old, Diego was 42.
It was her first marriage, his third.
Matilde Calderon, Frida’s mother, was against this marriage: not only Diego was 21 years older than Frida but he was twice divorced, atheist, communist and a known womanizer.
Capturing Frida’s small frame near Diego appearance (she was 5' 3" tall and weighed 100 lbs, he was 6' and weighed nearly 300 lbs), Frida’s mother said: this is like the wedding between a dove and an elephant.
In April 1931 while in San Francisco, Frida painted her wedding day in a double portrait: “Frieda and Diego Rivera”.
The difference in height and proportion between the couple is realistic but Frida’s feet are painted so small that she seems to float, to have no ground to stand on.
Rivera is portrayed as the artist while Frida presented herself as the small, young, pretty wife at his side. Diego eyes look directly at us from above while Frda’s looks into an empty space, lost.
This painting describes Frida’s state of mind right after her wedding, and how she felt about herself.
To make matters worse, when Frida exhibited this work in San Francisco at the exhibition: Wives of famous artists, one art journalist described the work as having any value only because it was painted by Mrs. Diego Rivera.
Photograph above: Carl Van Vechten, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera about 1932: As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain.
Over the next decade, from 1929 to 1939, we observe how Frida developed from a hobby painter to the accomplished and powerful artist she became.
In December 1939 Frida and Diego divorced, re-married one year later in San Francisco in December 1940.
The relationship between Frida and Diego was complex, toxic and an example of two exceptional artists larger than life who can not stay together and can not stay apart.
Painting #27, Frida Kahlo: Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931 Oil on canvas, 100 x 79 cm, Licensed replica: ©Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008
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