Frida Kahlo: Wife, Dabbler, or Masterful Artist?

Frida Kahlo: Wife, Dabbler, or Masterful Artist?

Did you know that the artist we celebrate today – Frida Kahlo – was once dismissed as mere “gleeful dabbling” in her time? And that her globally renowned husband Diego Rivera was merely known to some as ‘a little boy’? 

Despite common historical narratives reducing her to a wife or dabbler, Frida Kahlo’s artistic legacy far exceeds these designations. Despite her husband Diego Rivera’s renowned status, Kahlo remains a symbol of artistic authenticity and individualism.

The Underappreciated Genius of Frida Kahlo

Largely overshadowed by her husband in her lifetime, Kahlo’s art was termed “gleeful dabbling” by Florence Davies in her 1933 article. However, a closer look at her works reveals a masterstroke of creative expression. Her paintings, a reflection of her unique perspective and personal experiences, are now celebrated worldwide.

“The Wife” “Dabbles”
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Often self-deprecating, Frida once was quoted saying, “He (Diego) does pretty well for a little boy, but I am the big artist”. This jesting remark counters dominant narratives around her artistry and injects an appreciation of her work into conversations.

Frida Kahlo vs Diego Rivera

While Diego undoubtedly left an impression in the realm of muralist art, his contributions do not diminish Kahlo’s brilliance. He, too, acknowledged her superiority as a portrait artist. This reckoning compels one to acknowledge the complexity of their artistic relationship.

Diego Rivera, revered in his lifetime, created some iconic paintings. Yet, his true genius might reside in recognizing and nurturing Frida’s singular talent. Contrary to popular opinion, he knew and acknowledged the greatness of his wife’s work.

Frida Kahlo has come a long way from being a ‘dabbler’ as she once was called. Her work now enjoys the recognition it deserved, with many ranking her amongst the greatest painters in the history of Western art. Her legacy isn’t merely as Diego Rivera’s spouse, but as a distinct and outstanding artist herself.

Women Artists and Their Undervalued Contributions to Art

Frida’s story underpins the broader issue of how women artists were historically undervalued. Sylvia Plath, Zora Neale Hurston, and others have faced similar situations where their work was diminished in favor of their husband’s output—inaccurately framing them in supporting roles. Careful revisiting of such narratives is a crucial step in acknowledging the significant artistic contributions women have made throughout history.

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