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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:49

Video transcript

we're in SF MoMA and we're looking at Frida Kahlo's portrait Frida and Diego Rivera from 1931 so it's an early Frida Kahlo and they were both in San Francisco so it's kind of a wonderful place to see this painting and they were here because Rivera was commissioned to paint murals here he was already an established painter who was famous in Mexico had been invited to the United States he was on the verge of a major one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and I think that was only the second solo exhibition that the museum had held that's right the first was of Matisse and so that's quite extraordinary company just a year or so later happy Rockefeller who was involved of course with founding the zeal of Modern Art had wanted Picasso and then Matisse to create a large mural in the lobby they both declined but Rivera was her third choice which is pretty extraordinary company but this is not Rivera this is Frida you know she looks so small and diminutive next to him and so delicate I'm sort of struck by the way she tilts her head and looks at us where he looks so stocky and looks at us straight on I mean she's really depicted him seeing him offering him to us as this incredibly solid figure and she floats in a way that he doesn't write he is so rooted those boots are so strong and there's something about the way in which her dress is off the floor that gives her a kind of lightness and also the tilt of her head as you mentioned there's curving forms in that shawl that she wears and in the necklace and in the headband and the frills in the skirt so she's got this feminine curviness to her that seems really different than his blockiness does he and there's a lot of symbolism in all of the clothing that you're talking about for both of them absolutely so she's referencing her Mexican heritage she's referencing the folkloric and in a sense really trying to resurrect and give a sense of real pride and of the importance of that heritage the double portrait the way in which they are against this very spare background is coming right out of the Mexican artistic tradition as well Diego is represented with this work shirt under a suit which is an interesting pairing because it really shows the sense of the working class but also kind of seriousness his tradition that he's coming from of the Mexican mural painters from the 1920s who were trying to build an artistic tradition on the Mexican Revolution of creating art for the people he's depicted as a server cur I'm also struck by their hands her hand is sort of light over his it almost looks to me like she's letting go interestingly he's got the paintbrushes and the palate even though this is her painting she almost lets go and looks at us and it feels to me like she's establishing her independence Diego is sturdy and not moving he's got his hand there and opened for her but when she tilts her head she's got a little movement to her she's the one who lifts her hand and [ __ ] her head and looks out at us and if you look at the bird at the top the bird is lying in with a banner as the museum translates that into English it reads here you see me Frida Kahlo with my beloved husband Diego Rivera I painted these portraits in the beautiful city of San Francisco California for our friend mr. Albert bender it was the month of April in the year 1931 another bender was a founding trustee of SF MoMA where we stand you