Happy Birthday Käthe Kollwitz!

Praying woman, 1892. Musée d’art moderne et contemporain of Strasbourg

The subject of one of my college research papers was the German-born painter, printmaker, and sculptor, Käthe Kollwitz. Do not worry. I will not post the paper in its entirety. I will just give you the abbreviated version; not because it is undeserving, but because I want you to learn more about her and her work on your own. It is pretty powerful to see the work and relate it to what was happening in the world, and in her own life, at the time she created the work.

The brief background is that Kollwitz’s reoccurring themes of the human condition categorized her art as part of the German Expressionism movement. Her work was a vehicle that confronted current world affairs. But, her compassionate depiction of these themes is what most defines her art. She articulated these themes in a powerful, yet poignant, style. However, her works did not escape controversy during World War II. Much of Kollwitz’s works, which were considered social statements, were banned due to its anti-war content. Although her work was banned, it has withstood the test of time, politics, censorship, all the things that set us apart, and focuses on what we have in common. Her work has spanned geographic borders, generations, and continues to be popular today.

I do hope you will look at some of her work and read a little about her.

 

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo!

By Guillermo Kahlo (1871-1941) (Sotheby’s) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico on July 6, 1907. Today, Kahlo is considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. While she enjoyed some success in her lifetime, she was primarily known as the wife of another famous Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. However, since Kahlo’s death in 1954, her fame has grown exponentially and is a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “Fridamania”. But, I sometimes wonder, what do we really know about Fida Kahlo? Sure. Her image is on merchandise, people dress in her likeness, … but what do we know about her art? So, I put together a little “Top Ten” to get you started:

  1. Kahlo’s dreamlike imagery is often considered surrealistic; however, Kahlo never considered herself a Surrealist. She maintained that she just painted her own reality.
  2. Estimates of Kahlo’s portfolio are somewhere between 150 to 200 paintings. Approximately 55 of these paintings are self-portraits. This is no small feat since she was in constant pain and experience periods of time in which she was bedridden.
  3. Kahlo originally started painting in earnest during her recovery from a horrific bus accident. During this recovery period, she allegedly considered becoming a medical illustrator as a way to combine her interest in art and science. While she did not become a medical illustrator, I think many of her paintings reflect the marriage of these interests.
  4. While the majority of Kahlo’s work is autobiographical in subject matter, they blended realism and fantasy. I know everyone wants to add a label and place things in one particular box. I think Kahlo’s work is the example that sometimes, that just isn’t possible. Her genre was all her own. Her style evolved, changed, and adapted over time and physical limitations. But, the commonality is that she always seemed to remain true to her own voice. What do you think? Is her work one particular genre for you?
  5. Kahlo and Rivera shared an interest in Pre-Columbian art. Look for some of the influences in her paintings. (Here is a hint. She was particularly fond of Pre-Columbian jewelry, but there are other nods to Pre-Columbian influences as well.)
  6. Her first significant sale came in 1938 when Edward G. Robinson bought four of her paintings. He reportedly paid $200(US) each. Since her work sells in the millions of dollars now, I would say the film star had quite the eye as an art collector.
  7. The following year, 1939, the Louvre Museum purchased one of Kahlo’s paintings for its collection. This acquisition made her the first Mexican artist featured in the Louvre’s collection.
  8. Style. I suppose we cannot discuss Kahlo without discussing her personal style. Our modern term would be “brand”, but for Kahlo, it was much, much, much more than fashion, style, or brand. Sure. It was all of those things, but it was also a way to emphasize her ancestry. As another branch of her art, it also allowed her to make her own statement about feminism and anti-colonialist ideals. And, her clothing style served an additional purpose by allowing her to camouflage some of her physical injuries.
  9. Kahlo’s first solo exhibition was in April 1953 at Galería Arte Contemporaneo. Kahlo, who was on doctor ordered bed rest at the time, had her four-poster bed moved to the gallery and arrived at the opening via ambulance. Wow! What a night that must have been.
  10. Kahlo’s works are considered a national cultural heritage of Mexico, which prohibits them from being exported.

If you are interested in getting a first-hand look at some of Kahlo’s paintings, the Dallas Museum of Art has an exhibition through July 16, 2017, which includes some of her work. This is the only exhibition scheduled for the United States, so start planning.

Resources:

Frida Kahlo Wikipedia

Fida Kahlo Biography

Frida Kahlo: Paintings, Biography, and Quotes of Frida Kahlo

The Frida Kahlo Phenomenon at The Dali Museum, Florida