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Frida Kahlo’s deer

Posted August. 22, 2019 09:27,   

Updated August. 22, 2019 09:27


There is no life without pain, but few have led a life of agony and perseverance as Frida Kahlo. The painter, having known to have said “My paintings hold messages of pain,” drew many self-portraits in reflection of her pain and agony.

Born into a family of a poor photographer in 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico, Kahlo’s life of pain began at the age of six, when she lost her right leg to polio. She had a bus accident when she was 18 and had to go through lifetime pain. She started to paint in her bed to overcome the tremendous pain and solitude, and painting became her tool to record her pain as well as her solace.

In 1929, 22-year-old Kahlo met and married divorcee and well-known 43-year-old Mexican artist Diego Rivera. He eventually had an affair with Kahlo’s younger sister, giving her emotional pain that was more unbearable than physical pain.

This self-portrait is a picture of the artist comparing her pain and loneliness to an injured deer. A young deer shot with several arrows and dripping with blood is wandering through a forest. A blue ocean is shown, but it is not safe resort, with lightening striking the sea. In ancient Aztek culture, deer is related to the right foot. The deer symbolizes her right foot, which was completely crushed as well as her right leg which was broken in eleven places by the bus accident. A closer look at the deer shows that it is trying to lift up its front foot, but it cannot lift its hind legs. Kahlo could hardly walk at the time she was painting this picture. One year before her death at 47, Kahlo had to amputate her leg due to necrosis. The broken branch in the front shows that she has accepted her fate.

Kahlo’s face in the picture does not appear sick, but instead she looks calm and poised, as if she is saying that pain does not have to be overcome, but simply accepted. In her last journal entry, she wrote, “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com