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Duality in the Art of Kahlo and Rivera

Duality in the Art of Kahlo and Rivera



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Published by la nina
Similarities and differences in Kahlo's and Rivera's art.
Similarities and differences in Kahlo's and Rivera's art.

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Published by: la nina on Dec 17, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Critical Thinking 
Sacrificed Men, Failed Women:Duality in the Art of Kahlo and Rivera
 Jayne Ellen Haggard 
Undergraduate Department of Art History 
In her “Sacrificed Men, Failed Women: Duality in the Art of Kahlo and Diego Rivera,” Jayne Haggard seeks to challenge the pervasive notion that Frida Kahlo’s artwork isstrictly a portrayal of personal pain and suffering. By comparing Kahlo’s work to that of her husband, renowned social activist Diego Rivera, Haggard posits that Kahloembraced a powerful political message. Both artists, according to Haggard, sought toconvey a message promoting, “the politics of equality.” Throughout her work, Haggardrefers to Kahlo’s
Henry Ford Hospital 
and Rivera’s
Detroit Industry Murals 
(paintings) toreveal the similarities in their political beliefs.
 The twentieth-century Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) isknown for her shocking and terrifying personal portrayals of pain andsuffering. Kahlo had suffered numerous physical traumas in her life, beginning  with polio at the age of six.
In 1925, she had a horrific bus accident, which lefther with terrible injuries that would plague her throughout her life.
Because of these events, her explicit paintings after 1932 are often interpreted purely asimages of her agonized and tormented life.
However, classifying her later art aspurely a visual account of her suffering excludes further interpretations that canbe deduced from her strong Mexican and Aztec iconography. In contrast, herhusband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957), was widely knownfor being a social activist who displayed his political statements through his
Critical Thinking 
2artwork. This article will show how Kahlo’s work goes far beyond her personalpain and can, in fact, be seen to be as actively political as that of Rivera.Using the examples of Kahlo’s
Henry Ford Hospital 
and Rivera’s
Detroit Industry Murals,
both executed in 1932, this paper shows how Kahlo andRivera’s work are each equally engaged with the politics of equality. Both worksinclude images of the human fetus and images drawn from the Aztec past andfrom the modern world of technology. Each artist’s work displays images of fertility and productivity and encompasses themes of life and death, which canbe seen to mirror each other. Life and death figured prominently on the mindsof both artists, as Kahlo had just suffered a traumatic miscarriage.
Prior to working in the United States, Rivera had been working withother muralists on Mexican government commissions to help build a strong national identity after the 1910 Mexican revolution. His murals depictedmodern Mexico’s true heritage as Aztec and not European.
Rivera used Aztecimagery to portray the workers as strong and powerful, elevating their status inorder to close the social divide. Beginning in 1930, Rivera receivedcommissions to paint a number of murals in the United States. He worked in JAYNE ELLEN HAGGARD, an undergraduate student in FraminghamState College’s Art History program, intends to further her studies at thegraduate level. This article was written for Dr. Elizabeth Perry’s Latin American Art course; and, an abridged version was presented at the 11
  Annual Undergraduate Conference. Haggard has previously worked as anFAA certified flight instructor, and has participated in various programspromoting youth interest in aviation and children’s flight safety.
Critical Thinking 
3San Francisco before coming to Detroit in 1932 at the height of the GreatDepression.
At the Detroit Institute of Arts, the communist Rivera wascommissioned by the Arts Commission, a board of wealthy capitalists, to painttwo walls of the Great Court.
One of the board members was Edsel Ford,president of the Ford Motor Company.
It was the Edsel B. Ford Fund thatfinanced $10,000 for Rivera’s commission.
This was later increased to over$20,000.
 Before Rivera’s arrival, the Ford Motor Company witnessed great unrestand anger from its many previously employed workers who were desperately trying to survive in this difficult time. On March 7, 1932, approximately 5,000laid off workers staged the Ford Hunger March, which terminated outsideFord’s Rouge River Complex. The former workers’ rage and frustration during this march could not be contained and ended with violence; five people died.
 Edsel Ford and his father Henry Ford hoped that a mural glorifying theirautomobile industry would reduce further unrest from Detroit’s working class.
 Soon after Rivera and Kahlo arrived in Detroit, Kahlo discovered she was two months pregnant. While Kahlo was unsure whether or not to have thechild, Rivera was adamant that he did not want any more children. He already had two children from a previous marriage and did not want any children fromthis one.
Kahlo knew that anything other than work was very low on the listof Rivera’s priorities. This may have been part of the reason why a few yearsearlier in her marriage Kahlo had had an abortion.
Once again pregnant,Kahlo went through much emotional turmoil, eventually deciding for a second

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