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Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)

Artist: Frida Kahlo
Created: 1943
Format: Oil on Masonite
Location: Gelman Collection, Mexico City

Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)

“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”  - Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo frequently painted about significant moments in her life and her deep emotions associated with them. In ‘Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)’ she makes it apparent that her husband, Diego Rivera, “passes through her head”, and is the source of profound sentiment and passion.

Dressed as a traditional “Tehuana”, Kahlo’s head and upper body is covered in the customary clothing of a Tehuantepec woman. The fabric’s hues are of various soft whites and creams, with a wide band of pink embellishing the lower portion of the costume. Kahlo’s clever use of light brings a shimmer to this pink ribbon, while the long and broad brushstrokes amplify the cloth’s folds draping over her head.

The striking features of Kahlo’s face bear a serious, self-confident expression. However, it is likely her forehead that attracts the viewers’ immediate attention as it displays a small portrait of her husband Diego.  One can safely assume that it symbolizes her constant consternation and undying love for him, regardless of his infidelities. He is always on her mind. The roots of the leaves that extend outward from the top of her head might well represent her need to “trap” Rivera, or perhaps lure him into monogamy.

About the Artist

Over the course of her career, Frida Kahlo painted at least 140 paintings, of which 55 are self-portraits. The depictions of herself are often representative of her physical and psychological injuries. Struggling with physical ailments during most of her life, Kahlo became a symbol of strength and determination to many of her fans. She was famed for her artworks of indigenous traditions, including ‘Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)’ and was also celebrated amongst many feminists for her portrayal of the female psyche and form.

‘Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)’ is a part of the Gelman Collection, Mexico City, Mexico.


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