Frida Kahlo - 'Survivor'
April 8th 2010, source: Christie's
This will mark the first time that this rare and extraordinary work has come to market since it was initially exhibited in 1938 at the Julien Levy Gallery, in Kahlo’s very first solo exhibition.
Virgilio Garza, Head of Latin American Art stated, “We feel privileged to present Survivor by Frida Kahlo for the first time since 1938. Its reappearance adds to the scholarship of one of the world's most iconic and revered artists. Only known to a handful of people from hearsay for decades and accessible to a new generation of viewers for the first time, this work will undoubtedly be embraced and sought after by collectors and Kahlo scholars worldwide.”
Survivor was purchased from this groundbreaking show by the esteemed Walter Pach, who later gifted it to the present owner. As an artist, critic, lecturer, art adviser, and art historian, Pach’s ability to recognize unmatched quality and innovative thinking was admired in artistic communities around the world. Pach was responsible for bringing the Armory show to New York in 1913, and was the first to have written about Cézanne in the United States in 1908, and the first to lecture on Van Gogh. Therefore, it was only natural when The New Yorker reported that Pach was the first to purchase a work from Kahlo’s exhibit; the work was Survivor.
This striking, palm-sized painting features a Mexican idol, standing on a field and ridden with alienation and disparity. Kahlo described the lonely subject as symbolic of Mexico’s insecurity in what had become an increasingly volatile world. However, Survivor also encompasses a tremendous amount of personal significance for Kahlo, who had lead a very harrowing life in the years preceding the execution of this work, including the first separation from husband Diego Rivera, the discovery of his affair with her sister, a pending divorce, the ensuing suicidal verdict, and then the pair’s eventual reunion. According to leading Kahlo scholar, Salomon Grimberg, “The circumstances that generated the Survivor image clarify Kahlo’s earlier description of the painting as mirroring her personal situation, her loneliness and survival in her own shaky world. The gateway of a ruinous dwelling stands abandoned on the horizon line of an empty plain; it reflects Kahlo’s alienation. Long ago, this was the entrance to someplace; now, it is the threshold to nowhere. Kahlo’s resilience is represented by a pre-Columbian vessel in the shape of a standing warrior from a burial site in Colima, the western region of Mexico.”
Kahlo’s feelings of desperation and isolation are apparent in this work, but in fact, this Survivor is an ex-voto, done to express her gratitude for the miracle that had been granted that had allowed her to survive the volatility of her personal existence. In fact, Kahlo chose to frame the work with an ornate tin frame made in Oaxaca resembling those traditionally used for votive paintings.