Art - Bring on a sense of self

1st February 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

GCSE art pupils must learn to contextualise the works they study. Who was the artist? Why did they choose certain subjects? The work of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo lends itself well to such analysis, writes Victoria Grace Walden.

Born in Coyoacan in 1907, she became an icon of Mexican culture and has been the subject of exhibitions and films worldwide.

A third of her 55 paintings were self-portraits showing how tragic experiences affected her: she had polio as a child and was severely injured in a bus accident, so spent much of her life in and out of surgery. She also had fertility problems, leading to miscarriages and an abortion. She believed honesty was of the utmost importance and her paintings can be shocking.

My Birth (1932) explores her miscarriage and the death of her mother by showing an adult head - that of Kahlo - emerging from her mother's womb in a sea of blood, while her mother's face is covered by a white sheet. In The Broken Column (1944) the artist's nude body, cut down the middle from head to waist, is part-covered by a body brace, with a fractured column where her spine should be, representing the pain that overshadowed much of her life.

Some critics believe Kahlo used the image of her body as a metaphor for her fractured homeland, which descended into chaos during the revolution three years after her birth. Others believe her self-portraits were a form of pain relief. Explore them in your classroom.

What else?

Introduce your class to Frida Kahlo, using slafhaj's worksheets and activities. bit.lytesFridaKahlo

Be inspired by South American art with PowerPoint tutorials from artyspice. bit.lytesArtofSouthAmerica.

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