Frida Kahlo, a self-taught Mexican artist, painted several self-portraits in the year 1940. Her paintings were an expression of her emotional state and often rejected traditional feminine attributes of beauty for more masculine attire. The painting “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” features Kahlo wearing a man’s suit and short-cropped hair. This painting also shows a black cat, monkey, and two dragonflies.
Kahlo’s paintings are known for their use of bold colors inspired by the decorative arts of Mexico. In this portrait, she cast off traditional gender roles while sporting an amulet necklace with a hummingbird that represents her strong connection to love as seen throughout her art.
Another self-portrait from the same period is “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair,” which reflects Kahlo’s grief and self-punishment after separating from her husband Diego Rivera. She cut off her long hair as it symbolized femininity that had betrayed and disappointed her.
Frida Kahlo refused to be labeled as a Surrealist artist despite many attempts by others to categorize her work in that way. For the iconic Mexican artist who considered herself more frank than Surrealistic, painting was not only an outlet for personal expression but also a means to reclaim cultural identity as well as national pride during times of social upheaval in Mexico throughout the twentieth century.