This side-room includes a number of portraits of Kahlo’s friends and patrons. During the months she spent in San Francisco, from 1930–1, she produced several portraits of people she met there. Amongst them, a careful pencil drawing of Lady Cristina Hastings, whose explosive personality intrigued Kahlo, and a nude of an African American woman, called Eva Frederick, about whom nothing else is known.
It was in the United States that Kahlo first found recognition, but from around 1945 her work was increasingly acknowledged in her native country, and included in major exhibitions. However, it was not until 1953, a year before her death, that she was given her first solo show in Mexico.
Kahlo never found it easy to earn a living from her art, despite the support of several enthusiastic patrons. One such was the engineer Eduardo Morillo Safa, who purchased some thirty pictures from her over the years and commissioned her to paint five members of his family, including his mother, Doña Rosita Morillo. The portrait of Doña Rosita, shown here, was one of Kahlo’s favourites. This affectionate image reprises familiar themes. As always, Kahlo presents death as part of the cycle of life, mingling prickly flowering plants with dried leaves and dead sticks in the background foliage, an appropriate setting for a woman at the end of life. The motif of ribbons or threads that Kahlo used to suggest emotional ties is also employed. Here, the knitting wool in Doña Rosita’s hands leads out beyond the picture frame, as if to make a direct connection to the viewer. In essence the painting is a vanitas, calling to mind the inevitability of death.