Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name



Art and Art History

First Advisor

Dora Apel

Second Advisor

Jennifer Olmsted


General scholarship on Frida Kahlo focuses on her personal life, so much so that her work is often viewed through a narrow autobiographical lens. Scholars have subjected her work to a psychoanalytical approach, and have overused her personal narrative as the basis of discussing her art. Her dramatic marriage to Rivera, her poor health and the loss of several pregnancies have led scholars to psychoanalyze her paintings. However, it is crucial to avoid reducing Kahlo’s art to merely her physical and emotional pain. This approach has been exhausted and may put Kahlo’s importance as an artist at risk. While Kahlo’s physical and emotional pain was undoubtedly a major source for her paintings, there are certainly other themes present throughout her oeuvre. Her paintings make intellectual statements about politics, culture, and national identity, which raise important and complex questions, and as a result complicates the personal approach to her artwork.