Iconographic Analysis: The Two Fridas

Paintings are often used to depict religious events that are important to the history of humankind. For many other artists, paintings are used as an outlet of communication to describe their life experiences or expression of their feelings for their viewers. Painter Frida Kahlo is a Mexican self-portrait artist who is known as a feminist icon during the early 20th century. In the painting  The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo uses double figures, clothing, and blood in order to portray a unique and eye-catching self-portrait. Kahlo uses all these elements in order to portray her inner struggle to fight and understand her identity as an individual.

In The Two Fridas, the viewer is able to see double figures of the subject who in this case is Frida, the artist who actually painted this portrait. Each figure has characteristics of their own that stand out from one another. One aspect that stands out the most are the outfits that is worn by both figures. On the left Frida, she is wearing a European dress and on the right, she appears to be wearing a rather “traditional” dress and this is to showcase her heritage. Frida’s mother was Mexican and her father was German. In addition to the dresses showing the two sides of her heritage, dresses were also a way for Frida to cover up a disability that she has struggled with as a child, and this led to complications with her legs to be a different thickness and size, which ultimately hindered her ability to walk properly and limp.

The use of two different dresses in the self-portrait can also be connected back to her relationship with her Husband Diego Rivera. Which may have been one of the reasons why Frida could have chosen to use her heritage in order to demonstrate what aspects her husband appreciated more. It is said — that Diego preferred Frida to dress in her traditional Mexican dresses, which are a blouse and Tehuana Skirt. On the other hand, the white European dress resembles the other side that Diego did not appreciate so much.

Another detail that stands out to the double-figure is the use of blood which can represent the struggles and all the pain Frida went through during her lifetime. Besides being sick at a young age, Frida was also injured in a terrible vehicle accident which caused her to be bedridden. Despite having limited mobility, many weeks after being released from the hospital Frida continued with her painting process. The usage of blood and the way each Frida’s hearts are being portrayed differently for each figure distinguishes the treatment towards the other non-traditional Frida. For example, the heart on the left figure is shown to be bleeding from an exposed heart and an artery is shown to be cut by medical pincers whereas, the other Frida is in top-notch condition and fails to be leaking any blood. This could show the two different personalities that make these two representations different, one being strong and one being weak and going through constant pain.

In the end, The Two Frida’s are what makes Frida, Frida. Both figures make up one, which is ultimately shown through the connection of veins that unite both subjects together. Although the struggles of her pain and culture is demonstrated tremendously throughout her self portrait and despite the negative connotations used for the Frida on the left with the usage of bloody clothing and double figures, she fundamentally accepts these ‘flaws’ as a part of her being.



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