I am a huge fan of Frida Kahlo, have been since I did a year of modern art as part of one of my degrees. While planning the Walker Wedding shin-dig I have been drawing on her imagery and life for inspiration. An artist, confined by illness, married to a fellow artist who led her a bit of a merry dance, the issues over children... hang on, I thought, this is all a bit familiar... Did my love of Frida come from my love of Elizabeth Siddal? How far is Frida Kahlo a secret Pre-Raphaelite?
|Self Portrait (1926) Frida Kahlo|
|Pandora D G Rossetti|
Anyway, it's not just the passing iconic resemblance to Jane Morris that got me thinking, it was more the spiritual sisterhood she seemed to hold with Elizabeth Siddal. More specifically, it was that both women seem to have built a self-image from their confinement due to illness. Kahlo's illness was from a horrific accident, which compounded damage done to her by polio (and possible spina bifida). This meant that great parts of her life were not only spent housebound, but flat-out in a bed with nothing to do but paint. Through these extraordinary portraits you get a vision of 'separateness' which goes beyond loneliness.
|Self Portrait Frida Kahlo|
|Self Portrait Elizabeth Siddal|
|Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera|
|Henry Ford Hospital (1932)|
|Ophelia J E Millais|
|The Dream Frida Kahlo|
I have to admit this is a bit of an object of desire for me, and I really think Frida would have approved as she was a big fan of the Day of the Dead. It strikes me that both Siddal and Kahlo are used by their audiences to express their own fears over mortality. 'Ophelia' Siddal is the doomed muse, drowning for the art of the men, a common summary of Siddal herself but one that in no way expresses the complexity and strength of her life. Similarly, the Kahlo who embraced death in art managed to live on into her 40s, young but considering her many health issues, testament to her strength of spirit.
|Lady of Shalott Elizabeth Siddal|
|Self Portrait (1940) Frida Kahlo|
I think it is more accurate to consider the individuality of both women, the 'separateness' that they portrayed and inhabited. Just as Siddal drew upon The Lady of Shalott, imprisoned alone, Kahlo endlessly presented herself alone in a landscape of her own fears. Both women found expression for their own centre and within themselves they found beauty in a nightmare they had to be strong enough to paint and write.
|Kahlo at her easel|
|Siddal at her easel|
Possibly this is why they both inspire me so much. As Frida would say Viva la Vida because it is short and art is forever.