Frida Kahlo Painting Goes on Display at Harry Ransom Center

Wes Scarborough

While not all students can say they have seen the work of Frida Kahlo in person, the Harry Ransom Center will have one of her most popular paintings on display during the 2014-2015 school year.

After being loaned to more than 25 museums around the globe, Kahlo’s “Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” which was created in 1940, will be on display in the Ransom Center from Sept. 5 through March 31. “It is one of Kahlo’s most important self-portaits,” said Peter Mears, curator of art at the Ransom Center. “It is a rare painting, and it’s not going to be [at the center] forever.”

The painting has been featured in exhibitions since 1990 and is one of her most frequently borrowed paintings, travelling to countries, such as France, Italy and Australia. 

Kahlo, the Mexican painter famous for her self-portraits, has influenced many artists postmortem. Her self-portraits have been on display in museums in cities, such as Mexico City, Rome and Paris.

Kahlo was born in Mexico City and died there, at her home, known as La Casa Azul. According to the Frida Kahlo Foundation, her career as a painter started because of a tragic bus accident, in which she suffered injuries at 18. During her recovery, she looked to art to pass the time and taught herself how to paint. 

Eventually, Kahlo married the artist Diego Rivera in 1929 and from then on endured a temperamental relationship. Kahlo was involved in several affairs, including an affair with the Hungarian photographer Nickolas Murray. 

According to Mears, Kahlo’s inspiration for the painting from her relationships with both Rivera and Murray. 

“The animals you see are symbolic of both of her lovers,” Mears said. “The monkey represents Diego Rivera, and the black cat represents Nickolas Murray.”

Kahlo is known to have mostly painted self-portraits, symbolizing torment, pain and death. 

“She put herself on the spot,” said Sandra Fernandez, art and art history assistant professor. “She used herself to talk about a lot of things women go through.” 

After its time at the Ransom Center, Kahlo’s self portrait will move to New York for the “Frida Kahlo’s Botanical Garden” exhibition.