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Join us as we explore Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, one of Frida Kahlo's self portraits which commemorates the brief affair Kahlo had with the exiled Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky shortly after his arrival in Mexico in 1937.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is known for creating striking, often shocking, self-portraits that reflected her political ideology, cultural identity, and her turbulent personal life. Kahlo's extensive collection of work, which includes around 200 paintings, sketches, and drawings, frequently explores the theme of life experience. Her artwork powerfully depicts her physical and emotional suffering, as well as her relationship with her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, to whom she was married twice. Among her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits.

Kahlo painted herself a lot, but the vibrant self-portrait titled Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, has an incredible backstory. It was painted in 1937 as a birthday gift for her secret lover, who would later be murdered, and Frida Kahlo arrested as a suspect.

By the time of its making, Kahlo as well as her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera were outspoken communists, with a particular interest in the politics of Leon Trotsky - the Russian revolutionary leader. But it seemed that Kahlo was interested in more than just his politics. Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky had a love affair. Between love letters and flirtation, their romance blossomed but it was brief and over in a few months. Less than three years later, Trotsky would be brutally assassinated, but this commemoration of their love affair survived. Kahlo wasn’t involved in his murder, after hours of interrogation and two days in jail, Kahlo was released with no charge.

In Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, elegantly dressed, with flushed cheeks, Kahlo stares right at the viewer. The curtains on either side of her create a frame reminiscent of traditional Mexican retablos. These were devotional images, painted on tin, of which, Kahlo was an avid collector. In one hand, she holds a bouquet of flowers, in the other, a letter which reads, “To Leon Trotsky, with all my love, I dedicate this painting.”

@sothebysinstitute Do you know the backstory behind this self-portrait by Frida Kahlo? #FridaKahlo #Trotsky #ArtHistory #Art #SothebysInstitute #History ♬ original sound - Sotheby’s Institute

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