Have you ever played a game of comparisons where you match up persons or things and try to decide which you prefer? I know we can’t or won’t really say who is the better artist but it is fun to take two artists who are contemporaries and match them up.
I invite your comments on these two artists. I simply want to know who you prefer,
Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera.
Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, and died in 1954, and is an artist whose work, with its fantastic dream-like quality and wonderful sense of colour I’ve always found appealing, mono brow and all.
Kahlo only began to paint seriously after a bus accident in 1925. She painted to occupy her time while recovering from serious injuries that required a full body cast. Her mother had a special easel made so she could paint in bed, and she used a mirror to paint many self portraits. She said she painted self portraits because she was often alone, and she was the subject she knew best. Personal experiences such as marriage, death, and her many operations became a dominant theme in her work. She painted 143 paintings of which 55 are self portraits. She said she never painted dreams; she painted her own reality. Her paintings, with their bright colours and dramatic symbols, show the influence of native Mexican culture.
She was married to Diego Rivera, whom she had been in communication with as a young artist: she had asked his advice about becoming an artist. He encouraged her to continue working as an artist, and they married in 1929. They divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1940.
For many years Kahlo was considered a minor artist, and lived in the shadow of Rivera, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that her work became truly well known. She had her first retrospective exhibition outside Mexico Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1982. In later years reproductions of her work have decorated many arts students’ dorm rooms, and her work has been widely reproduced in calendar and greeting card form.
Diego Rivera was born in 1886 and died in 1957. Rivera was a painter, communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo.
He traveled widely and spent time in Paris where he experimented with cubism before returning to a form of Post-Impressionism, his work being marked by simple forms and strong colour. He returned to Mexico in 1921 and embarked on his career as a muralist. His work in fresco helped establish the Mexican mural renaissance. He had a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1931.
It is as a muralist that Rivera must be measured. I’ve often found his smaller easel paintings uninspired and his work as a society painter confusing considering his Communist roots.
At first when I thought of pairing these two artists I was certain I would give the match up to Kahlo. However looking at reproductions of the truly incredible murals of Rivera I can see how large his influence was on Kahlo, and as wonderful as Kahlo’s self -portraits are, Rivera’s work as a muralist is just too important to ignore, and I will give this match up to Rivera.