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Redesigning Reality With Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh Essay Sample

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Redesigning Reality With Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh Essay Sample

Artists paint and create images as a form of communication. A concept which most artists find hard to paint is their inner thought and feelings. As they must explore deep into their sub-conscious to find who they truly are as a person and how they can represent that on a canvas, print or paper through the use of symbols and other techniques. Two artists who have done this are Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh.

Frida Kahlo was one of the most important Mexican artists of her time. She is well known for her harsh revealing self-portraits. She started to paint at the age of 15 after she was in a horrific bus accident, where she then began her career as an artist. These self-portraits, mainly reflected her physical and emotional suffering she has gone through since the accident and later on in her life. Along with this she was greatly influenced by her husband also a great painter at the time, Diego Rivera, and Mexican folk art. ‘Her work is colourful, almost naive vigour, tinged with surrealist fantasy’ (A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art, 1998: Online)

Henry Ford Hospital 1932

Oil Painting

One of Frida Kahlo’s most famous pieces titled ‘Henry Ford Hospital’. It’s based on a real life incident that happened to Frida while she pregnant and asleep in her New York apartment. Frida uses a lot of symbols in this picture to represent different evens in her life. This painting is was done a 12 x 15 inch canvas, using oil paints.

It features herself, Frida, lying on a bed naked with lots of blood around her groin. Her hands are holding her stomach as she loses her baby in this tragic scene. The red lines represent the umbilical cord of her baby. They are attached to six objects in the painting: her baby(centre), wilted flowers (below the bed) , doctors operating instruments(bottom left) , pelvic bone(bottom right), a model of a woman’s womb (top left), a snail(top right). Each of these objects represented something important in Frida’s life. Her unborn fetus – as is the focus behind the image, is put in the middle of the painting, as it is what caused this incident.

The pelvic area being is where she suffered most of her pain and it was a part of her body where she has already suffered the previous bus accident, when she was fifteen years old. To add to it, she shows the operating tools the doctors used on her. The model of the woman’s womb represents where the problem was for Frida. The fettered flowers show how she felt after the surgery, how she felt like she wanted to die after losing her baby and going through extreme pain. Lastly the out stretched snail shows that before she was taken to hospital that she was very slow moving and every movement caused pain. The hospital she was taken too was the Henry Ford Hospital in New York and she has written it on the bed.

In a way these objects have been orientated in a specific order from what first happened to how it ended. First the womb being problem and the problem was then narrowed down to the baby and how she could hardly move to help herself. She was taken to hospital and operated upon. After the operation she felt almost dead and that she will now always have problems with her pelvis bone.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was considered to be one of the greatest Dutch painters after he past away. During his lifetime he got little recognition of his work and only sold one painting. He greatly influenced the current ‘Expressionism’ in modern art. Japanese prints influenced Van Gogh into using more bright and vibrant colours other than his alternative dark dull colours. Van Gogh wasn’t considered to be normal person. He constantly heard voices and hallucinated a lot, which lead him to being taken into hospital.

The Bedroom (Arles)

Oil on canvas 72x90cm

This painting ‘The Bedroom’ was produced by Van Gogh in 1889. It’s a painting of his room in Arles, while he was in the mental hospital. This piece was an oil on canvas, on a canvas 72x90cm.The room just shows the basics of what is normally in a bedroom: A bed, chair, table, wardrobe, paintings (or posters these days), window and a door. Van Gogh uses simple techniques such as ‘scratching’ to give the symbols an old or worn out look. He has positioned each piece of furniture in a specific way to show his personal feeling of self. The placement of the objects creates a spacious and peaceful feeling. The floorboards are stained and cracked give the impression that the room is getting old

He painted this while he was in the mental institution. He painted his bedroom in Arles, because it reminded him and what ‘normal’ people have compared to what he has now in the hospital. It shows that he missed living a normal life and would do anything to get out the hospital and live a normal life again. He missed the bright colours in his room. This shows that he didn’t like the plain look in the hospital and again added to his willingness to get out of the hospital. He missed having the freedom in his life. To add to this, the spacious look he has created in the painting reflects how he would be feeling in the hospital, lonely and isolated from the rest of the world and not being able to communicate to the rest of the world. The old impression he gives on the painting shows that he is getting old and probably won’t live in these conditions any more.

In one art piece Van Gogh has been able to express himself in many ways. He has achieved how he feels by the use of furniture as symbols in his life, through this painting. Paintings like these have changed the way of modern expressionism artists.

Both Frida and Vincent show some of the same features in their artwork. Both have done their work on canvas using oil paints and both have shown a fondness in the use of bright colours in their work to show different emotions and feelings.

Frida and Vincent also showed great differences in their artwork by the use of symbols and different techniques. Frida uses very fantasy like symbols where as Vincent uses realistic objects that are seen in everyday life. Also the techniques used by Frida and Vincent vary. Frida uses smooth clean cut brush strokes compared to Vincent’s scratching technique to give that old
worn out look.



World Book Encyclopaedia 2001 Deluxe


Unknown. Frida Kahlo. [Online] http://www.artchive.com/artchive/K/kahlo.html , 23-7-06

Unknown. Frida Kahlo – Wikipedia the free encyclopaedia. [Online] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo , 23-7-06

Unknown. Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom – Arles – Provence. [Online] http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/musees/chambre-vincent/gb/index.html , 26-7-06

Unknown. WebMuseum: Gogh, Vincent van. [Online] http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/ , 27-7-06

Unknown. A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art: Gogh, Vincent Van. [Online] http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/entry.html?subview=Main&entry=t3.e1003 ,28-7-06

Unknown. A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Art: Kahlo, Frida. [Online] http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/entry.html?subview=Main&entry=t3.e1257 , 28-7-06

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