Frida Kahlo Self Portrait with Cropped Hair – What is the meaning?

In 1940 Self Portrait with Cropped Hair was Frida’s first self-portrait after divorce from fellow artist Diego Rivera. Here she depicted herself wearing an oversized men’s suit and crimson shirt—possibly Rivera’s—instead of one of the traditional Mexican dresses that she is often shown wearing.

She has just cut off her long hair that Diego loved. In her left hand she holds a lock of her clipped hair like an sign of her sacrifice. In her right hand, she holds the scissors with which she martyred her femininity. Strands of her hair are everywhere and they surround her in an empty space that she seems to shrinks into. In contrast to her typical self-portraits, she would fill up the canvas with boldness. Here she purposely minimizes herself in the portrait as she minimizes her femininity.

The verse of a song painted across the top of the portrait points to the reason behind this act of self-mutilation:

“See, if I loved you, it was for your hair, now you’re bald, I don’t love you any more.”.

After the divorce, Frida gave up her Tehuana costumes so liked by Diego and wore instead a man’s suit. The only feminine attribute she retained was her earrings. This self-portrait seems to express her desire for the freedom and independence of a man and yet at the same time expresses the sadness and loss.

In spite of this though, in typical Frida style she is still controlled. The yellow chair, the only bright spot in the painting, seats the upright Frida in a partial man stance. At a slight angle she is not facing the viewer but looks sideways. She’s ready to go. She has accepted her new look and yet mourns for what was.

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