Go beneath the surface of Frida Kahlo's paintings with the DMA
Take an in-depth look at the works on view in "Frida Kahlo: Five Works"and discover more about this pioneering artist's life in the Dallas Museum of Art's new virtual gallery, featuring infrared photography and X-rays that reveal Kahlo's painting process.
"Frida Kahlo: Five Works" offers a rare chance to explore a selection of works by acclaimed Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Since Kahlo's death in 1954, her deeply emotional and vibrant paintings have garnered ever-increasing attention, transforming the celebrated artist into a global cultural phenomenon.
This installation features four paintings and a drawing on loan from a private collection courtesy of the Galería Arvil in Mexico City. Each acts as a vehicle for understanding larger aspects of Kahlo's artistic practice, including her working methods and unique visual language. These works invite us to look closely, exploring their layered meanings and pondering their connections to Kahlo's adventurous life.
Curated by Dr. Mark A. Castro, Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art, the exhibition is included in the DMA's free general admission.
Among the most exciting aspects of "Frida Kahlo: Five Works" is an examination of three of Kahlo's paintings conducted by Castro and the DMA's painting conservator, Laura Hartman, using non-invasive imaging techniques such as x-radiography and infrared photography.
These techniques, which allow us to peer below the surface of Kahlo's works, will offer new insights into how she painted.
Still Life with Parrot and Flag 1
In Still Life with Parrot and Flag, an initial planning drawing done in both thin lines and wide ink strokes shows how Kahlo simplified compositional elements in the final painting, especially with regard to shifting the size and shape of the fruits.
Still Life with Parrot and Flag 2
The most labored part of the underdrawing shows several adjustments made to the parrot's wing and beak, and changes made to the adjacent mango. The underdrawing observed in each painting made clear that Kahlo had a strong vision for the overall composition of each work, regardless of the subtle changes made in the painting process.
Diego and Frida
Infrared photography revealed a small inscription on one of the shells attached to the frame on Diego and Frida. This inscription reads "Recuerdo de Veracruz" and was subsequently covered by red paint, probably by Kahlo herself. Frames like this one would have likely been found in the tourist market of Veracruz; here, it is a special hidden detail that gives us an intimate glimpse into the past life of the object.
Sun and Life
The X-ray taken of Sun and Life revealed an exciting evolution observed in the painting: although Kahlo's basic composition was generally set from the underdrawing to the early painting phase, the details evolved significantly in later phases of painting. The plant pods surrounding the sun, for example, largely began closed but opened gradually during the painting process.
Another interesting discovery is the fetus-like element directly behind the sun, which emerged as Frida finalized the painting, in contrast to the X-ray that reveals a closed pod.
"Frida Kahlo: Five Works" is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art through June 20, 2021, on the Atrium Overlook on level four.