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Frieda and Diego Rivera
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More about Frieda and Diego Rivera

ssohail's picture

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Frida Kahlo’s mother described the marital union between her daughter and Diego Rivera as a marriage between an elephant and a dove.

Looking at this picture, I’d say Madre dearest had a point…and a knack for analogies!  Frida painted this double portrait a couple years after she and Diego were married, and moved to our very own San Francisco, CA. Legend has it that the painting was inspired by their wedding photograph. Moreover, there’s a legend on the picture itself, held up on a scroll by a fat brown bird. Hovering over Kahlo’s head like a thought-bubble, it reads: “Here you see us, me, Frieda Kahlo, with my beloved husband Diego Rivera. I painted these portraits in the beautiful city of San Francisco California for our friend Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in the month of April of the year 1931.” This Albert Bender chap helped Frida and Diego get their visas to America (my fellow third-world countrymen can appreciate how difficult this can be) so a token of thanks in the form of a painting doesn’t seem too over the top.

Back to the whole elephant and dove analogy: can’t argue with that one. Frida was 22 years old when she married the 42-year-old Diego Rivera. Can definitely hear the announcer in the wrestling ring shouting out the introductions: “And in this corner, at 300 lbs and 6 feet, we have the communist crazed and almost middle-aged…Diegoo Riveeeeera!” Yup, and next to him we can see the almost weightless Frida practically levitating in her floaty dress, with her tiny feet poking out. It can’t have just been the difference in age and weight that caused the couple to have a troubled relationship, though. Diego was a twice divorced, well-known womanizer in those times, and he and Frida definitely butted heads over his continuous affairs. In fact, they were divorced a few years after this painting was made, then remarried again. Talk about your on again, off again relationship!

Even here, Diego is armed with palette and brushes, staring directly at the viewer, while Frida latches on to his hand and her shawl, staring off into space. She’s clearly marked Diego as the artist in this picture and shows that her own identity is associated with his. She’s Mrs. Diego Rivera. Which is how she came to be known in America as well. In fact, a newspaper in San Francisco even described the painting as valuable only because Diego Rivera’s wife painted it. Ouch. No wonder Frida looks so lost and miserable. Seems like she was having a bit of an identity crisis at this point. Luckily though, within the decade Frida Kahlo became as significant an artist as her husband, if not more so. Who run the world?? GIRLS!

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Frieda and Diego Rivera

Frieda and Diego Rivera (Frieda y Diego Rivera in Spanish) is a 1931 oil painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. This portrait was created two years after Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera married, and is widely considered a wedding portrait.

The painting shows Kahlo standing next to her husband and fellow artist, Rivera. Rivera, portrayed as a painter, holds a palette and four brushes in his right hand while Kahlo tilts her head towards him. Both are looking out toward the viewer, unsmiling. Kahlo holds her bright red shawl with her left hand. Rivera and Kahlo hold hands in the center of the portrait. Rivera is physically much larger than Kahlo. The pigeon in the upper-righthand corner carries a banner that reads: “Here you see us, me Frieda Kahlo, with my dearest husband Diego Rivera. I painted these pictures in the delightful city of San Francisco California for our companion Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in the month of April of the year 1931.” The work had been commissioned by Albert M. Bender, an art collector and supporter of Rivera.

There are many interpretations of the work. Hayden Herrera, author of Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, interprets the work simply as Kahlo depicting herself as the wife of the great artist, Rivera. Other authors, such as Margaret Lindauer, investigate the larger context in which the work was created. The banner is supportive of Lindauer's interpretation because it places Kahlo in the producer/professional artist role.

The painting is currently located at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in San Francisco, California. It was gifted to the collection in 1937 by the Albert M. Bender Collection.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Frieda and Diego Rivera.