“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone; because I am the person I know best.”
Out of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits. Self-portraits are the common subjects by Kahlo. Most self-portraits of Frida Kahlo have a common perception of an uncomfortable setting, a dolor (pain), which Frida had to suffer and which the observer cannot unsee. With the combination of her artistic skills and imagination, Frida blended her pathos with art. The concord between the opposite colors of her self-portraits catches the eyes of the observer. With a further survey, we begin to be aware of the dolor and pathos, then the endurance, and finally the potency that is perceptible on the face of the artist.
Today, we will examine Frida Kahlo’s straightforward works, Me and My Parrots (Original title in Spanish: Yo y Mis Pericos), a self-portrait depicting Frida Kahlo with her calmer appearance surrounding her beloved pet parrots. In Me and My Parrots, self-portrait, she was right to be looking nerve-wracking, considering her grief at the loss of her father and her continually lasting pain but instead, she was able to find a place of peace, and I believe it’s pretty admirable. So, if you are ready, let’s start our journey!
THE STORY BEHIND FRIDA KAHLO
Firstly, before diving into all the detail of the painting, I would like to mention Frida Kahlo’s life to comprehend Me and My Parrots painting better. (At first, her story might seem too long, but I can assure you that these details are necessary to make all these interpretations of the painting.)
Frida Kahlo painted Me and My Parrots shortly after her father died in 1941. Frida suffered physically since childhood. Her father’s death only added to her perpetual suffering. There is a belief that Frida Kahlo was born with spina bifida; it is a condition that distorts the spinal column. At six, she caught polio, which left her right leg shorter and thinner than her left. Later in her life, a horrific trolley accident cut short Frida’s plans on September 27, 1925. It was one of those flukes of fate that changed a life forever. An out-of-control trolley hit the bus she was riding. She nearly died that day.
The iron rod stabbed through her hip and emerged through her vagina, damaging her uterus and causing her incapable of bearing children. (Later, Frida Kahlo told the doctor the handrail had taken her virginity.) Her wounds included a broken spine, collarbone, two broken ribs, and a shattered pelvis; her right leg had eleven fractures, and her right foot was dislocated and crushed, which means a lifetime of suffering and pain.
Healing Comes by Painting
She spent a month in the hospital, immobilized in plaster casts and traction, followed by several months pinned to her bed at home. She was bedded for months, desperate and out of spirit. But one day, her father provided her with an easel that was positioned to Frida’s four-poster bed. In addition, her mother rigged up a mirror placed above her bed to paint herself while lying down.
Only then did she begin to gain her spirit, and she produced numerous paintings and self-portraits.
After a grueling recovery period, the pain Frida had to endure never left her body entirely. The accident forced her to live a lifelong agony, and the state she was in became her reality and eventually the subject of her paintings.
Meeting Her Great Pain
Every artist needs approval, so she decided to ask the one artist she knew, a well-known muralist Diego Rivera. Rivera said he liked her work. The rest was inevitable. Soon the two started to see each other passionately. Diego proposed marriage, and she accepted. Then, on August 21, 1929, Frida Kahlo, age 22, married Diego Rivera, 42. The next few years were happy.
She virtually stopped painting and soon found herself expecting a child. But unfortunately, doctors told her she would be unable to deliver a baby, and Frida experienced a miscarriage three months into her first pregnancy. She tried four more times to have a child, but each time it ended in miscarriage or medically recommended an abortion. So Kahlo poured her maternal longings into the care of her nieces, nephews, her enormous collection of dolls, and her pets.
It was terrible enough Rivera’s messy relationships with strangers; however, Kahlo was devastated when she learned about his affair with her sister. Subsequently, their relationship was on new terms: Each was free to have sex with whomever they wanted. This arrangement seemed to work for a while, and Kahlo herself had several romantic relationships with men and women. However, the most significant consequence was her affair with the exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. But, of course, conducting a romance with Rivera’s hero was also an act of most effective revenge.
“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”Frida Kahlo
The Unavoidable Fame & Divorce
In 1938, a New York gallery owner invited her to hold a one-woman show, in which she was celebrated as a painter in her own right. She went on to the second show in Paris. While Kahlo was away, Rivera learned of her affair with his political hero and felt deeply betrayed, followed by the couple beginning divorce proceedings at the end of the year.
Unexpectedly, the ever-troublesome Trotsky once again changed their lives. In 1940, an agent of the NKVD snuck into his house and struck him on the head with an ice ax. He died the next day. Kahlo had met the assassin in Paris while circulating in Communist circles, so she was interrogated by the police for twelve hours. For the time being, Frida’s health deteriorated after her divorce. She was drinking heavily and was in constant pain from her old injuries and sicknesses for all these.
Finding her Diego Love Again
Finally, in 1940, she flew to San Francisco for treatment by her old friend Dr. Eloesser. He prescribed rest therapies and told her to stop drinking. Her health improved significantly after that visit. Eloesser also urged Rivera and Kahlo to get back together. As a result, on Rivera’s 54th birthday, December 8, 1940, they remarried again. Kahlo was 33.
Kahlo knew Rivera could not remain faithful to her, and she didn’t feel compelled to stay loyal to him either, but she knew he loved her, and she loved him. So, despite being married again, Kahlo was determined to live an independent life. So she moved back to the Casa Azul in Coyoacán, while Rivera remained in the double house in San Angel. Her many pets, including monkeys, birds, deer, dogs, and other creatures, could run freely through the house.
THE STORY BEHIND ME AND MY PARROTS
After her remarriage to Diego Rivera in December of 1940, Frida’s life settled into a fairly calmer way. The ordinary things of life, animals, children, flowers, and the countryside most interested her. In many of her self-portraits during this period, Frida included her beloved pets.
Despite their second marriage, Frida and Diego lived separately and did not mind their affair with their lovers. Frida was already in a romantic relationship with Nickolas Muray, the successful portrait photographer in New York. (Murray and Frida Kahlo met in 1931 while he was on a trip to Mexico. Their love affair continued for another 12 years and ended in 1941. He and Kahlo remained good friends until her death in 1954.)
Frida Kahlo did paint Me and My Parrot under these circumstances.
ANALYSIS OF ME AND MY PARROTS
Me and My Parrot represents Kahlo in indigenous Mexican dress and hairstyle with her parrots, symbolizing love and a new brand life of Frida, calmness, and steadiness.
The Movement of Me and My Parrots
As a self-taught artist, her uniqueness comes from her vast imagination, and Frida Kahlo employed naïve art in Me and My Parrot, as seen in her other portraits. Frida began with the style of European and Italian renaissance. However, the more she grew older, the more interested she became in her origins. The vibrant colors Frida used in Me, and My Parrots is a fine example of her influence on the Mexican folk tradition.
In 1940, Frida attended the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Galeria de Arte, Mexico, where she displayed two of her paintings: The Wounded Table and The Two Fridas. A surrealist French writer and poet, Andrew Breton, labeled Kahlo’s work surrealistic. However, Kahlo never agreed with this label. According to her, her paintings depicted her reality.
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”Frida Kahlo
The Technique of Me and My Parrots
The background also contrasts with Frida herself and the colorful parrots. Despite the bright colors, the parrots do not come forward. Instead, it is Frida herself that takes the attention of the viewer.
The rigidness of the painting is broken by parrots bringing depth—their feathers creating a contrast to the smooth flatten Frida’s appearance with the changing tone of the background.
The hair in parrots has been meticulously painted by layering short, fine, linear brush strokes, creating a realistic texture of the animals’ fur.
What Can You See in Me and My Parrots?
The brush strokes are soft and smooth. The contrast of the colors is balanced. Frida Kahlo is seated in the center of the painting. There are at least two other self-portraits with a parrot (Self Portrait with Bonita and Self Portrait With Monkey And Parrot), whereas we have four parrots accompanying her in this painting. One is perched on her right shoulder while one is on the left. The other two parrots nestled in the arms of Kahlo. It seems as if she embraced them.
Before 1939, Frida painted more indoor scenes with furniture such as beds, chairs, and tables. However, after 1939, the background or setting becomes blurry, and more animals such as monkeys and birds, combined with natural scenes. Frida Kahlo wants to give us her messages with animals here.
1. Frida Kahlo
After 1939, meanwhile, Frida Kahlo painted pictures with mostly frontal or three-quarters perspective, from her chest to above or simply her face in the middle of the portrait. Under her reputed monobrow, her solemn gaze directly towards us captures our first attention. Nevertheless, the other details were overshadowed by Kahlo’s subject matter by herself. In a sense, Kahlo wanted to be noticed and might be getting full attention to getting known without ignoring her lifetime anguish and yet with her passion courage, after all.
Kahlo is in a traditional Mexican dress. The top is white, and the lower part is dark purple. Between the two fingers of her right hand, there is a lit cigarette. She appears calm and at peace. The reason might be that after their remarriage, regaining her Diego love, Frida’s life settled into a fairly mellower way, as we mentioned before.
Another interpretation of her expression could be related to her accepting the fact about her relationship with Diego. Kahlo knew Rivera could not remain faithful to her, and she did not feel compelled to stay loyal to him either, but she knew he loved her, and she loved him.
They are in different sizes, colors, and appearances. Amongst them, the parrot on the left shoulder is larger.
Frida most likely derived the parrots from Hinduism. These birds are considered the holders of the Kama, the Hindu god of human love or desire. Therefore we suggest that these parrots symbolize the lust between Frida and Nickolas Muray. On the other hand, Parrots might substitute the children she never had since she saw her pet animals as a child.
While thinking of Frida Kahlo, all we vision her with her flamboyant style and unique paintings and consider her as one of the most iconic figures in the history of art. However, in her lifetime, Frida Kahlo was best known as the wife of the mural artist; Diego Rivera. She was probably influenced by Rivera’s art when they first met. Rivera was already a prominent artist back then. Kahlo’s influence waned during the decades immediately after her death, with Rivera becoming the more famous of the two. The balance started to shift in Kahlo’s favor in the 1980s with the rise of the Neomexicanismo movement, which celebrated her use of imagery from Mexican culture.
Wanna continue to read more about Frida Kahlo’s artwork? Check out Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, here.
Until next time, stay with art.. ????????✌