Frida Kahlo Henry Ford Hospital
Frida Kahlo
Henry Ford Hospital
1932

Studies and preparatory drawings in this room reflect a number of recurring themes in Kahlo’s work. The lithograph Frida and the Miscarriage 1932, can be linked to the painting Henry Ford Hospital 1932, seen in room four. Kahlo portrays herself and her lost foetus with anatomical precision. The image is divided into two halves, light and dark. On one side embryonic cells divide around a male foetus; on the other the moon weeps, while Kahlo’s blood drips into the earth, nourishing plants that are shaped like human body parts. A third arm, clutching an artist’s palette, might imply that painting must supplant maternity in Kahlo’s life. A drawing called The Dream 1932, repeats some of the same motifs, such as cellular structures and plants becoming limbs. She shows herself lying naked on a bed, dreaming a cloud of images - a device reminiscent of Surrealist art.

In other drawings Kahlo extends her experimentation with Surrealist imagery. She often amused herself with the Surrealist game of ‘Exquisite Corpse’, in which one person draws a head on a piece of paper, folds it over, and passes it to the next who adds a torso, and so on. Kahlo was notorious amongst her friends for her risqué and sexually explicit contributions.

In another work, Kahlo portrays Luther Burbank, a Californian horticulturalist famed for his vegetable and fruit hybrids - the painting based on this drawing is included later in the exhibition. She presents Burbank himself as a hybrid, half man, half tree, whose roots are fed by what Kahlo said was his own corpse. This dream-like imagery may owe something to Surrealism, of which, despite her statements to the contrary, Kahlo was very likely aware. However, it could equally stem from the fantastic vein in Mexican popular culture.