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Frida Kahlo | Biography

The famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo created the Autorretrato con Mono y Perico painting. This portrait was painted in 1942 and is part of the Contemporary Art from Mexico. The measurements of the painting are 21” x 17”. This is Frida’s self-portrait and she included her dearly loved pets. The spider monkey, named Fulang Chang, was a gift from her husband Diego River, a contemporary Mexican artist. The Amazon parrot used in the portrait was named Bonito. Frida used Óleo sobre fibra dura, which means Oil on Masonite, to paint her self-portrait. The colors that she used on her portrait are bright and joyful.[1] Those bright and joyful colors presented her emotional state at the very moment of her life. This portrait was temporarily displayed at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. It is part of a spotlight gallery talk, which one can explore the 20th century, renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This exhibition was temporality displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Modern and Contemporary, Masterworks from the Malba, Fundación Costantini.[2] This exhibition was temporarily displayed in order for art lovers, students and teachers to learn more from the 20th-century Mexican artist like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon was her full name but everyone knew her as Frida Kahlo. She came to the world on July 6, 1907. She was born in her parents’ house called “La Casa Azul” (The Blue House) which is located in the city of Coyoacan in Mexico City. At the age of six, she contracted polio, and her left right leg thinner than the other one. The Bus accident and polio changed Frida’s life incessantly. That is why you will always see Frida wearing long skirts or dresses in her portraits in order to disguise that. She suffered from a dislocated right foot and shoulder. She also suffered from a broken collarbone rib, spinal column, and foot. Her recovery journey in a full body cast lasted for about three months. Frida eventually recovered from the post-traumatic bus accident. She was able to walk again with a limp. Even though she recovered, she would still have a great pain for the rest of her life. While she was in bed recovering, her love for painting grew. In 1925, she was forced to drop out of the Preparatoria, where she studied art.[3] Kahlo also received some training from her father, Guillermo.[4] Guillermo, who was a photographer and an amateur watercolorist.[5] Frida was an astute observer; she would observe many of the leading trends of the 1920s.[6] Children’s art and some early points of Surrealism were included in the leading trends.[7] The Contemporáneos also inspired Frida, which was a more intimate approach to art making and provided an alternate view of the modern city.[8]
Frida has suffered most of her life, due to polio and the bus accident. In August 1929, Frida married Diego Rivera, who was a famous Mexican mural painter. Her marriage with Diego Rivera was not always rainbows and flowers. Her relationship with Diego was stormy because of his infidelity. At times, they were passionate with each other and other times it was the opposite. Another major issue they faced was that Frida could not have any children and that was a major issued in their marriage.[9] Frida wanted children and Diego did not want children because of his career, it required him to do a lot of traveling. Diego was not worried about having children since he already had children from his previous marriage. Diego Rivera influenced most of Frida’s portraits. Through her portraits, she paints based on her emotions. She always painted reality and never dreams. Most of her portraits are self- portraits and are based on events that she was going through at the moment or events that she had suffered in the past.[10] Her portraits always have Mexican symbols presents, such as indigenous people and feminism.[11] The themes displayed in her portraits were pain and passion. Most of Frida’s portrait are about herself because she often felt alone and painting was her way of expressing her deep emotions.
The Autorretrato con Mono y Perico painting represent her aspect in life. Bonito the Amazon parrot and Fulang Chang the spider monkey surround her. Since Frida was incapable of having children, animals were considered substitution for kids. The portrait was done with rigorously controlled strokes throughout the portrait, except in the feathers of the parrot and the fur of the monkey.[12] The direct frontal presentation of the model that Frida did is part of the 19th-century portraits.[13] The colors that she used on her portrait are bright and joyful because that is where her emotional state was. At this point in life, Frida was happy. Frida’s work was not officially Surrealist, but the movement liberated her to discover her inner fears and desires.[14] To be able to explore her personal experience instead of public issues. [15]
Frida was influenced by the indigenous Mexican culture for the use of bright colors including dramatic symbolism. In her portrait, she portrayed Fulang Chang and Bonito as solicitous and affectionate symbols. Even though, the monkey is considered to be an emblem of lust in Mexican mythology. The bushy leaves behind Frida represent her love for the gardening that she maintained at her house, La Casa Azul. The portrait shows her thick bushy eyebrows, which were her trademark. On the portrait, you can see that she tied up her hair in an elegant braid to show off her graceful neck.
Frida Kahlo painted herself the way she was in real life and what was happening in her life at the very moment. All of her portraits were based on her personal life experience, starting from the bus accident and even painting herself in her deathbed. My overall experience of visiting the Museum of Houston Fine arts was remarkable. I do wish they created more exhibitions on Frida’s portraits in order to be able to admire and study more about them. Within those twenty minutes of the spotlight talk, I learned so much about Frida’s personal life. I was fortunate enough to have been able to visit this exhibition a couple of years ago. The exhibition was successful because I learned what inspired Frida to paint and her reasons behind her portraits. I was able to view Frida’s portraits up close. I was so amazed and moved on the stories behind the portraits. I have always been a fan of Frida’s portraits because of the amazing tragic stories behind them. Frida did not care about how she looked and did not care about other people’s opinion. Frida had her own personality. This portrait really got attention, The Autorretrato con Mono y Perico because she really loved her animals and the colors she used on it. In her portrait, you can tell how important her animals were to her. Since Frida was not able to have any children, she loved her animals, as they were actually her own children.
Website: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
https://www.mfah.org/calendar/spotlight-gallery-talk-diego-rivera-and-frida-kahl
https://malba.org.ar/?s=Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, Autorretrato con chango y loro (Self-portrait with Monkey and Parrot), 1942, oil on masonite, Malba – Fundación Costantini, Buenos Aires. © 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
[1] Oles, James. “Diario Colección, El Autorretrato Con Chango Y Loro De Frida Kahlo.” Https://malba.org.ar/el-autorretrato-con-chango-y-loro-de-frida-kahlo/
[2] “Spotlight Gallery Talk: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.” https://www.mfah.org/calendar/spotlight-gallery-talk-diego-rivera-and-frida-kahl.
[3] Oles, James. Art and Architecture in Mexico: 275 Illustrations, 248 in Colour. London: Thames

German Expressionism: A Crystalline Utopian Society

“Today there is no art. The various disrupted tendencies can find their way back to a single unity only under the wings of a new architecture…Everything will be one thing: architecture”. Bruno Taut, A Programme for Architecture
This was the ideology of Bruno Taut, a German Expressionist architect who pushed the idea of a utopian architecture; an architecture that would bring together all of the arts in a time of turmoil. At the beginning of the 20th century, artists, writers and creative professionals started to express themselves through their work, with a tendency towards pieces that were “escapist, visionary, or festive.”[1] This influenced architecture and led to designs that reflected personal experiences. Architecture and art were to redeem its spiritual and social role from the chaos of the First World War. Many architects had fought in the war and their experiences, combined with the political struggle and social upheaval in Germany, resulted in a utopian outlook.[2] This can be seen in all creative fields such as Franz Marc’s Dreaming Horses, Hans Poelzig’s film set for Golem and Paul Scheerbert’s novel Lesabéndio. Scheerbert was described by Bruno Taut as “the only poet in architecture,”[3] as he understood the impact of the ideas in artwork and architecture in shaping Germany. Scheerbert believed the artist had the ability to overcome these social and national differences as he stated that: “an artist [is] an imitator of Christ and his passions, the artist sacrifices himself for the sake of the world.”[4]
Dreaming Horses by Franz Marc (1913)
Film set for Golem Hans Poelzig (1914)
Expressionist architecture has too much diversity to allow it to be categorized under a unified aesthetic. Expressionists were torn between a “Utopian view of modern technology and a Romantic nostalgia for Volk.”[5] Architects took inspiration from artists and began to develop new ideas that were highly emotive. This led to most of the expressionist projects being executed in the most favourable conditions, as many buildings did not make it past sketches.[6] Taut understood the need for this imaginary architecture, and speculated ideas for “a new age of social harmony.”[7] He understood the need for a new cultural structure, a utopian architecture that would lead to a civilized society. Taut also understood the need for Crystalline architecture and the importance of new materials in forming this new utopian realm.
Principles of Architecture by Hans Scharoun (1919) a post-war crystalline architectural concept

The Crown City (1918) elevation showing the rising sun reigning over the new utopian city/realm.
The idea of creating a utopian city was an attempt to reply to the Great War and the turmoil of the German Reich by creating a better social structure for Germany. Taut expressed his frustration for the social circumstances through the idea of bringing together architecture and art by “capturing the essence of the medieval city in modern terms”[8] to discover the source of origin in German architecture: the Volk. This allowed Taut to find a cultural connection with the inner spirit, internal thoughts and the realm.[9] Taut’s project Die Stadtkrone (The City Crown) 1918, began to explore these ideas through urban planning concepts that promoted an agrarian way of life that would “transform old Europe’s Habits of thought and feeling.”[10] The city is centred around a “city crown,” which is a large crystalline structure that reigns above the site as a pure architecture. The crystal house reigns over the entire city like a “sparkling diamond”[11] that would become the “carrier of cosmic feelings, a religiousness”[12] and “like a sea of colour, the municipality spreads itself around the crown, as a good sign of fortune.”[13] Taut described himself as “a solid cliff in a restless sea,”[14] linking himself to a Godly figure that had the ability to recreate the world in at a time of chaos. He believed that his work would “convince us that the early dawn of a new culture is already emerging on the horizon,”[15] and this can be directly seen in the elevation of Die Stradtkrone with the sun rising behind the crystalline house that shimmers over the city spreading “good fortune of a new life.”[16] Motivated by his disgust of the social circumstances, Taut’s designs projected a complete reconstruction of the world which was an attempt to discover the architect’s ability to alter life and nature, which can be further seen in his obsession of crystalline forms.
The Crown City begins to define Taut’s idea of a utopian city using crystalline structures.
Crystalline architecture had a major influence in expressionist architecture which was formed by the use of new materials of glass, steel and concrete. These new materials allowed for architects to express their ideas beyond the classical ideal of harmony, assisting architects in their aspirations of a new heralding of the arts, with more abstract built forms and ideas.[17] These materials allowed for a new fluidity as walls no longer had to be vertical. Steel allowed for concrete to be used in a thin articulation and glass opened up structures to the environment, as architects believed that “glass architecture will bring a new culture.”[18] Glass architecture specifically influenced the work of Bruno Taut which allowed for him to experiment with crystalline forms. The collaboration of Taut and Scheerbart attempted to address the problems of German society through glass architecture. Scheerbart wrote about the influence of glass in his manifesto: Glass Architecture stating that “culture is in a sense of the product of architecture”[19] and that “sunlight and the light of the moon and stars must be let into as many rooms as possible.”[20] Learning from this, Taut designed his 1914 Glass Pavilion at the Werkbund exhibition. This pavilion was a utopian realm of spiritual regeneration through architectural design that played with light, colour and spiritual qualities. The building was described to be similar to a Kaleidoscopic image projection, as entering this structure gave the feeling of entering another world.[21] There were inscriptions by Scheerbart about the wonders of glass architecture such “coloured glass destroys hatred”[22] and “building in brick only does us harm.”[23] Taut’s ideas of crystalline architecture were further explored in his Alpine Architecture. He saw the mountains as a location for architectural transcendence, which transformed the surface of the earth, as in Scheerbart’s utopian novel Lesabéndio that describes life on an asteroid.[24] Taut imagined these crystal forms as “architecture that would dominate the world, and transform mountains into buildings existing for the beauty alone and virtually ceasing to serve any useful purpose.”[25] In Taut’s Alpine Architecture, especially in Firns in Ice and Snow, he is returning to the idea of medievalism, where architecture represented all of the arts in these glass superstructures located in the European Alps. These structures would be “the crystal needles of the mountaintops”[26] forming “cliff cathedrals”[27] that are implicitly defined by Taut as the absolute limit of architecture.
Glass Pavilion by Taut (1914)- Elevation and Plan: a prismatic glass dome constructed from concrete and glass.
Inside the Glass Pavilion showing the use of glass and the transcendental nature of the room similar to a Kaleidoscope. (note: the glass was coloured)
Through Crystalline architecture and Utopian urban designs, Taut was able to generate ideas of an architecture that would be able to bring the union of paintings, sculptures, and architecture, resulting in a society that could overcome national and social difference. Taut was able to influence many artist and architects through his work and collaborative groups such as the Glass Chain, which led to the development of Expressionism in Germany. In my opinion, Taut’s ideas of architecture influenced a society that was in extreme turmoil giving hope to a country that had just lost the war. Furthermore, his belief in the importance of glass allowing light to enter a building is something that is at the forefront of modern architecture and will always be important. As stated by Taut: “Hurray for the transparent, the clear! Hurray for purity! Hurray for the everlasting architecture!”[28]
Firns in Ice and Snow by Taut- a coloured glass city located high in the alps silhouetted by the rising sun

Bibliography:
Books:
Beil, Ralf, Dillmann, Claudia (2011). The Total Artwork in Expressionism : Art, Film, Literature, Theatre, Dance, and Architecture, 1905-25. Ostfildern, Germany : Hatje Cantz
Colquhoun, Alan (2002). Ch ‘Expressionism and Futurism.’ in Modern Architecture. Oxford; New York : Oxford University Press.
Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Bruno Taut: Down with Seriousism! (1920)’, in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Bruno Taut: Fruhlicht (Daybreak) (1921),’ in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press,
Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Erich Mendelsohn: The Problem of a New Architecture (1919)’, ‘in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass architecture (1914)’, in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Frampton, Kenneth (2007), Part II. ‘A Critical History 1836-1967: The Glass Chain: European architectural Expressionism 1910-25’ in Modern Architecture: A Critical History. London: Thames and Hudson, revised and enlarged edition.
Kostof, Spiro (1995), Ch 26. ‘The Trials of Modernism’ in A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kruft, Hanno-Walter (1984), Ch 25 ‘Germany and its Neighbours 1890s-1945’ in A History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present, translated by Ronald Taylor et al, New York: Zwemmer and Princeton Architectural Press, pp 364-392
Mallgrave, H.F. (Ed) (2006). Part III: D. German Expressionism and the Bauhaus – ‘Bruno Taut, letter announcing the “Crystal Chain”(1919) in Architectural Theory Vol II, Malden Mass.: Blackwell, pp 202-203.
Pehnt, Wolfgang (1985). Expressionist architecture in drawings. London: Thames and Hudson
Schirren, Matthias (2004). Bruno Taut, Alpine architektur: Munchen; Lakewood, N.J.: Prestel Publishing
Taut, Bruno (2015). ‘The City Crown by Bruno Taut’. Ashgate Publishing Limited
Internet:
Miller, Tyrus. 2017. “Expressionist Utopia: Bruno Taut, Glass Architecture, and the Dissolution of Cities.” Accessed September 17 2018. https://ojs.zrc-sazu.si/filozofski-vestnik/article/download/6537/6173
Wikipedia. 2018. “Bruno Taut.” Accessed September 17 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Taut
Wikipedia. 2018. “Expressionist Architecture.” Accessed September 17 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionist_architecture
Wikipedia. 2018. “Modern Architecture.” Accessed September 17 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_architecture
Yoniarto, Cesario. 2011. “Expressionism in Architecture.” WordPress, accessed September 17 2018. https://architectureintlprogram.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/expressionism-in-architecture/
Lecture:
Hamann, Conrad. 2018. “Expressionism in the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, from late-Art Nouveau.” Lecture. RMIT
[1]Kostof, Spiro (1995), Ch 26. ‘The Trials of Modernism’ in A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 688.
[2] Schirren, Matthias (2004). Bruno Taut, Alpine Architektur: Munchen; Lakewood, N.J. : Prestel Publishing, 6.
[3]Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass architecture (1914)’, in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. , 32.
[4] Conrads, ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass Architecture’, 14.
[5] Colquhoun, Alan (2002). Ch ‘Expressionism and futurism.’ in Modern Architecture. Oxford; New York : Oxford University Press, 87.
[6] Pehnt, Wolfgang (1985). ‘Expressionist Architecture in Drawings’. London : Thames and Hudson, 6.
[7] Colquhoun, ‘Expressionism and Futurism’, 91.
[8] Colquhoun, ‘Expressionism and Futurism’, 91.
[9] Hamann, Conrad. 2018. “Expressionism in the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, from late-Art Nouveau.” Lecture. RMIT.
[10] Conrads, ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass Architecture’, 32.
[11] Colquhoun, ‘Expressionism and Futurism’, 91.
[12] Taut, Bruno (2015). ‘The City Crown by Bruno Taut’. Ashgate Publishing Limited, 67.
[13] Taut, ‘The City Crown by Bruno Taut’, 67
[14] Pehnt, ‘Expressionist Architecture in Drawings’, 11.
[15]Pehnt, ‘Expressionist Architecture in Drawings’,8.
[16] Taut, ‘The City Crown by Bruno Taut’, 67.
[17]Colquhoun, ‘Expressionism and Futurism’,,89.
[18] Kostof, ‘Trials of modernism’, 690.
[19] Conrads, ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass Architecture’, 32.
[20] Conrads, ‘Paul Scheerbart: Glass Architecture’, 32.
[21] Miller, Tyrus. 2017. “Expressionist Utopia: Bruno Taut, Glass Architecture, and the Dissolution of Cities.” Accessed September 17 2018., 16.
[22]Wikipedia. 2018. “Expressionist Architecture.” Accessed September 17 2018
[23] Wikipedia. 2018. “Expressionist Architecture.” Accessed September 17 2018
[24] Miller, ‘Expressionist Utopia: Bruno Taut, Glass Architecture, and the Dissolution of Cities.’, 16.
[25] Kruft, Hanno-Walter (1984), Ch 25 ‘Germany and its Neighbours 1890s-1945’ in A History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present, translated by Ronald Taylor et al, New York: Zwemmer and Princeton Architectural Press, 373.
[26] Pehnt, ‘Expressionist Architecture in Drawings’, 7.
[27] Pehnt, ‘Expressionist Architecture in Drawings’, 7.
[28]Conrads, Ulrich, (1970). ‘Bruno Taut: Down with Seriousism! (1920)’, in Programs and manifestoes on 20th-century architecture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press,1.

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