A central artpiece of the exhibition Third eye. The Costantini Collection in Malba is Diego y yo [Diego and I] (1949) by Frida Kahlo (Coyoacán, 1907–1954), which set a record for Latin American art when Costantini acquired it for his private collection in November 2021. It was the last self-portrait bust Frida painted before she died in 1954, which depicts the face of her husband Diego Rivera as a third eye. This work will be displayed with Autorretrato con chango y loro [Self-portrait with monkey and parrot] (1942) of Malba Collection and a considerable collection of documents, including Frida Kahlo’s photographs, letters and personal effects.
“The accident changed my life: Ever since, my obsession has been to begin again, painting things exactly as I see them, relying on my own eye—nothing else.” The daughter of Matilde Calderón, a Catholic mestiza, and Guillermo Kahlo, a German Jew, Frida Kahlo had an inclination for science and an exacting eye from the time she was small. In 1925, when she was eighteen years old, the car she was driving in was hit by a train, and her spine was fractured multiple times. In the years following the accident, some twenty-seven operations were performed on her. Though Frida had met Diego Rivera in 1922, when he was making the murals for the Bolívar Amphitheater, their romance did not begin until 1928. One year later, they were married.
Diego and I symbolizes the tempestuous relationship between Frida and Diego, who were married for almost 25 years in a passionate and turbulent marriage. Though Kahlo opposed Catholicism, which had been passed down to her from her mother, she did use elements of Catholic iconography in her art. Indeed, spirituality pervades her life and work. Her transcendental vision was informed by how ancient Mesoamerican cultures view death, a vision tied to a cyclical conception of time where life and death are joined in an endless continuum. No less prevalent in her worldview are Egyptian culture, Hinduism, Buddhism, and occult teachings (indeed, that is where the representation of the third eye in the work Diego y yo comes from). Dualism is a common theme in her work, first and foremost in the binary between her own person and Diego, a dualism tied to universal dialectics like the masculine and the feminine, life and death, sun and moon, and body and mind.
Diego and I, 1949
Oil on Masonite
30 x 22,4 cm
Eduardo F. Costantini Collection
Tan extraña como tú
Una caja de madera llega en avión a Buenos Aires. Escuchamos una voz. ¿Proviene de la caja? La carga misteriosa es transportada con sumo cuidado hasta un depósito, donde pasa la noche en soledad. Al día siguiente, el contenido de la caja y la voz se revelan.
Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot, 1942
Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot was made in the early 1940s, when Frida Kahlo, having gained international fame through exhibitions in New York and Paris, was trying to speed up her production in order to make a living from painting. The work follows a standard compositional format used in portraits and self-portraits of the early 1920s: the subject, seen from the waist or chest up, occupies a narrow space between the picture plane and a wall of vegetation that sometimes reaches the edges.
This self-portrait is executed with rigorously controlled brushstrokes – except for the fur and feathers – typical of the paintings she completed at the peak of her career. The direct, frontal presentation of the character follows a model inspired in part by popular 19th-century portraiture, a type that Kahlo and Rivera collected and displayed in their family home in Coyoacán, which the artists shared at the time.
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