Till now, the authorities responsible for thepublic collection of artwork in America have lamented thatthere are only twelve paintings by Frida Kahlo, a highly acclaimed Mexican artist in the country. In fact, Boston’sMuseum of Fine Arts has even been criticized in the past for not having a more ethnically varied Latin American compilation. However, all that changes as there has been one more recent addition to those displayed.
The first ever painting that Kahlo sold titled Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia). The back of the painting has the signatures of Frida Kahlo, her future husband Diego Rivera and the buyer, Jackson Cole Phillipsm the American industrialist and is dated with July 1929, almost 12 months after the artwork was created. The painting had remained with the heirs of Phillip for more than a couple of generations before they had it put up at an NYC art gallery for sale. The chairperson of MFA’s Art of the Americas exhibits, Elliot Bostwick Davis, recently found it there. While the museum wouldn’t divulge the exact amount it paid, the official record for Kahlo’s work is of the tune of $5.6 million.
Kahlo took up painting as a serious pastime and business venture after an accident in 1925. While she is especially known for her self-portraits, Dos Mujeres shows the portraits of two women who could have been her maids in her childhood home. Their coloring suggests they are indigenous Mexicans with one being paler than the other. They are shown standingin front of thick green foliage peppered with butterfliesand some sort of fruit. It could be that the maids had taken care of her during her recovery.
Since the acquisition of Kahlo’s works are strictly monitored by Mexico who consider her a cultural heritage, Any purchase of a painting would only have been feasible if the painting had been out of Mexico for an extended time. After its initial debut, the painting will be handed over to the conservation lab where, under the watchful eye of Rhona MacBeth, it will be scrutinized and perhaps settle some unanswered questions, like how it was brought so discretely back to America by Phillips, though MacBeth has a niggling suspicion that he rolled it and put it in his suitcase judging by the minuscule horizontal cracks in the paint.