Frida looks out with a penetrating gaze, but what is she looking at? In later self-portraits, she'll develop an even stronger direct gaze. Here, she turns her head slightly, even though her body faces forward. I think the slight turn makes her less confrontational. She sits on a plain wooden chair wearing a deep blue scoop-neck dress highlighted by red and gold earrings that make her look as if she is a middle-class Mexican woman. There is a simplicity to her clothing and the setting, yet her long neck conveys an elegance. Her joined eyebrows and pulled back hair, however, add an androgynous element because her eyebrows are not perfectly thinned out and her long hair isn't cascading down onto her shoulders. At twenty-three, Frida is just beginning to try out different ways of presenting herself in oil paint.
Most likely, Frida created this painting while living in Cuernavaca with her new husband. Diego had received a mural commission from Dwight W. Morrow, the American ambassador to Mexico, to decorate the Palacio de Cortes (Cortes Palace). Here Diego painted the atrocities inflicted upon the indigenous people of Mexico at the hands of Cortes and his conquistadors as well as the triumphs of the Mexican Revolution from 1910-1920.
Beginning in December of 1930, Frida and Diego stayed in the Morrows' house for approximately ten months. They had this lovely home to themselves because the Morrows were in London. Frida had dreamed of traveling while she was confined to her home recovering from the bus/trolley accident and now she was fifty miles away from Mexico City. It wasn't a long distance, but this small town was quite different from the bustling city. It was a lovely setting for the honeymooners, yet, all was not perfectly romantic. Diego had an affair with Ione Robinson, an American painter who was his mural assistant. Although Frida was not a traditional woman, she must have been hurt by Diego's insensitivity. It was their honeymoon. Did he have to begin his affairs so early in the marriage? Frida was in a vulnerable position because her friends and family were far away. Diego had his mural to focus on and an affair, but what did Frida have? She had her art.
The challenges that Frida faced in Cuernavaca foreshadowed similar challenges ahead when she and Diego would live in the United States.
© Celia S. Stahr 2014