When Diego and Frida returned to Mexico they settled into their new home that was built while they were gone. It’s actually two houses, his and hers, connected by a bridge across the top level. Diego’s house was bigger and designed to receive visitors, Frida’s was smaller. Each had their own studio. Frida liked having her own space to work but the multiple levels and narrow stairs aggravated her old injuries. She finished My Dress Hangs There, a piece she began in Detroit.
In 1934 she was often hospitalized and didn’t paint. She had her appendix removed and the tips of her toes on her right foot were removed. Her foot was slow to heel and she was constantly in pain. Then she discovered that Diego was having an affair with her sister Cristina.
She moved out and began to make a life for herself apart from Diego. She cut her hair short and tried to be independent. During that time she completed Self Portrait with Curly Hair and A Few Small Nips, a painting she said was inspired by a news story but also sends a message that it was ok for men to have affairs but was not acceptable for women.
As Frida talked over Diego’s affair with her friends, she realized she still loved him and still wanted to be with him. She forgave him, moved back, and began affairs of her own. She kept hers discreet while Diego became very open about his. Her works from around this time: My Grandparents, My Parents, and I, 1936; Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (one of her affairs), 1937; and My Nurse and I, 1937.
With What the Water Gave Me, Frida began to be labeled a surrealist, though she didn’t care for that term emphasizing that she painted her own reality.
I think this painting is one of her stranger pieces and I wanted to do something inspired by it but wasn't really interested in painting something similar. So I did a little photoshoot instead and it was a fun change.
It was around this time that Frida sold her first paintings, four for $200. This was a turning point for her and she began to see her art as work (a means to be financially independent) and not just a hobby.
In 1938 Frida had a show of 25 paintings in New York City (attended by Georgia O’Keefe). About half the paintings sold and she received commissions for others, such as 1939’s The Suicide Of Dorothy Hale.
Next Frida travelled from NY to Paris for another show. There were delays in planning, one gallery thought her paintings were too gruesome. Marcel Duchamp helped her out arranging it at a different gallery, this show attended by Miró and Kandinsky. Picasso did not attend but was a fan and gave her the hand earrings. When she returned home, her relationship with Diego deteriorated and they divorced. She was determined to support herself and this was her most prolific period.
After the divorce, Frida’s health declined. She drank a lot to mask the pain. Diego learned of her health issues and encouraged her to go to San Francisco to meet with doctors there. In SF Frida was diagnosed with a kidney infection and anemia; she was put on bedrest. The doctor also reunited her with Diego and encouraged them to remarry. They remarried on Diego’s 54th birthday. She returned home to the blue house feeling much better.
In 1943, Frida was offered a position at the Education Ministry’s School of Painting & Sculpture. She had never formally studied art before and felt a little awkward teaching so she she told the students she would be learning along with them. She posed for her students and she took them on outings. Soon though her health kept her from school so her students began coming to the Blue House.
Each doctor seemed to recommend a different course of treatment and Frida went through several surgeries and wore various devices and corsets. In the late 1940’s she began to keep a diary. By the 1950’s she rarely painted, no longer able to paint the details with her tiny brushes that she used to. Her sister Cristina cared for her as she was no longer able to dress, bathe, comb her hair etc. in 1953 doctors had to amputate her right leg due to gangrene.
The last written entry in her journal is “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.” It was referring to leaving the hospital but is often interpreted as referring to her death. Frida died in her bed on July 13, 1954, one week after her 47th birthday.
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