The inspirational work of Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí, two of my favorite art and fashion icons, clearly reflects their eccentric lives and progressive ideals.
Who are Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí? Most would answer simply: “Aren’t they famous artists or something?,” but that is less than half the whole story. Not only did they break ground in their respective artistic fields, but also in fashion. Quirky, eclectic, eccentric...there aren't sufficient words to describe this pair. Frida and Salvador (I like to think that we’d be on a first name basis) have been endless sources of inspiration for me. From their artwork, to their fashion and style, to their convictions, they are icons in every sense of the word.
I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.
Bad Mama Jama
Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón, more commonly known as Frida Kahlo, was born July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. Throughout her life, she suffered from severe health problems, caused in part by a traffic accident she survived when she was a teenager. During her recovery, she spent most of her time in isolation, which deeply affected her future work. Thus, many of the Frida Kahlo paintings are self-portraits. She once said: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” A powerful truth, albeit a rather melancholy one.
Mexican as well as Amerindian cultural traditions were very important elements in her work. A great deal of Frida's work is an expression of some form of pain she experienced in her life, like her volatile marriage to Diego Rivera, miscarriages, and numerous medical complications. Fifty-five of her 140 estimated paintings by Frida Kahlo were self-portraits, featuring in some way a physical or psychological wound. She always maintained that she never painted dreams, merely her own reality.
Via Frida Kahlo
In this somber painting, Frida paints herself isolated from the city shown in the distant horizon. She leaves herself alone with one of her most painful experiences: her second miscarriage.
Via Frida Kahlo
Frida painted this shortly after undergoing spinal surgery. She was haunted by this painfully traumatic experience. Within her bandaged torso, her spine is represented by the crumbling column. Since the spine is the major highway of the central nervous system, she must have been experiencing severe pain everywhere. As a painter, Frida depicted her pain in the painting as nails piercing her bare skin.
Via Frida Kahlo
This painting mirrors her disappointment at her failed spinal surgery, which she hoped would cure her chronic back pains. Fatally wounded with nowhere to run, the bright blue skies in the distance fade away as she succumbs to her immutable destiny. Eventually, she arrived at the point where her legs were barely usable. She replied to the news with resolute acceptance: “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
A true child of revolution, Frida was born almost exactly three years before the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. Her radical attitude carried over into her many self-portraits wherein she created a unique identity for herself, set apart from social constructs. There are also clear notes of political and social influences in her work. In exposing poignant feminine experiences—making the private, public—she is uniting the personal and the political. Her artwork reveals a struggle for self-determination in a very deterministic world, especially for women. She is saying the personal is the political, and, thus, uniqueness is valuable. (I could write so much more on this subject, but I am on a deadline!)
During her life, she celebrated her own uniqueness not only through her spectacular art, but also her fashion. After nearly sixty years of being locked away in storage, Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe was finally unveiled for all to see. Flowing skirts and blouses, intricate jewelry and headwear, all of bold and colorful designs, complete with cigarette burns and paint stains. Together, the collection makes up over 300 pieces and is now on display in her childhood home La Casa Azul, which has been converted into a museum that houses the Frida Kahlo Gallery.
Via GREY Magazine
The revelation of her brilliant wardrobe also sparked the creation of an entire clothing line inspired by none other than the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo herself!
I think we can all take a page from the book of the artist Frida Kahlo. Her tremendous self-confidence carried her across unimaginable difficulties throughout her life. She was a truly remarkable woman in so many ways.
The artist Salvador Dalí, to me, is the essence of Frida Kahlo in male form.
Salvador Dalí (full name: Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech) was born May 11, 1904 in Figueres, Spain. He was believed by his parents to be the reincarnation of his older brother, also named Salvador, who died of gastroenteritis nine months earlier. He attended the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid from 1922 to 1926, when he was expelled for allegedly starting an “unrest.” Drawing inspiration from a wide variety of styles, ranging from the classics to cubism to the avant-garde, he established himself as a surrealist artist who evoked equal amounts of praise and confusion from his critics.
My brother and I resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. Like myself he had the unmistakable facial morphology of a genius. He gave signs of alarming precocity, but his glance was veiled by the melancholy characterizing insurmountable intelligence. I, on the other hand, was much less intelligent, but I reflected everything…(he) was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute.
Artist, Fashion Icon
Via The Dalí Museum
Living in the shadow of his deceased brother was something that haunted him for his entire life. This is the only painting Salvador Dalí ever did of his brother; its purpose was a sort of symbolic exorcism.
One of his most well-known works, The Persistence of Memory is a rejection of the idea that time is rigid and deterministic, in exchange for a more fluid interpretation of the concept. I just love how melted these Salvador Dalí clocks are! This is one of my favorite Salvador Dalí paintings.
Like Frida, Salvador was a self-declared anarchist, and politics played a sizable role in his work. A premonition of the potential consequences in the Spanish Civil War, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans depicts grotesque imagery of a disjointed and deformed human being. Judging by the content of this piece, it is abundantly clear how he felt about the conflict of war.
“Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.”
In addition to being an accomplished artist, Dalí also had a foothold in the fashion industry. Some of his most well-known collaborations were with Elsa Schiaparelli. Playful, quirky, and bizarrely wonderful, Shoe Hat certainly turned heads. It contains just the right amount of ridiculousness. Would any of you wear it? I’d like to think, that in the right situation, I could totally rock this Shoe Hat!
Dark with a celestial air, this is one of my absolute favorite fashion pieces of all time. It has a very elegant flair, but has just enough Gothic and quirky influences to make it absolutely fantastic. This has got to be one of those dresses that makes you feel like a powerful sorceress or evil queen. I would wear it in a heartbeat!
Dalí possessed an unparalleled genius and an inexhaustible creativity. Imaginative doesn’t even begin to describe him. Never caught with both feet in reality, he seemed always to be drifting somewhere in between. From his iconic mustache to his eccentric style, as you'll see more of in the next photo, he transcended this world, embodying one which existed nowhere but within his own mind.
In addition to being one of the greatest artists to ever live, Salvador Dalí has to be one of the most quotable people of all time. Just about everything he ever said is pure gold. With boundless confidence, he once exclaimed, “Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: That of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí.” I think we could all benefit from that kind of ambitious, self-assured attitude. He achieved so much in his lifetime, simply because he believed he possessed the potential to do so, and acted on it. It’s a mindset we all should look to embody!
From their roles as artists and fashion icons to their contributions to society (both during their lifetimes and posthumously), Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dalí were two of the most influential figures of the 20th century, and they continue to impact the world today.
Thanks so much for reading! Are you as inspired by these two 20th-century icons as I am? Please share and drop a comment with your thoughts on the matter!
This post would not have been possible without the fantastic resources available through the interwebs. The following sources provided me with important historical information: Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Solidarity, and Harper's Bazaar. The featured image is a Photoshopped image of Kahlo and Dalí together that I found on Rebloggy.