Frida Kahlo and Joy Hester
During the 1940's and 50's a emergence of strong female artistic influence can be seen using the examples of Joy Hester and Frida Kahlo. While Kahlo was recognised during her life as a brilliant independent artist for her ground-breakingly personal style, Hester was not. It was only after her death in 1960 that her art was truly celebrated in Australian exhibitions.
Hester and Kahlo both attended art schools through the 1920's and 30's; because of this they share many of the same basic artistic influences. Surrealism played a big part in the development of their art, especially in Kahlo's works that are often associated with surrealism. Expressionism was another influence they shared but it played less of a role in their art as it only began development in the 1950's. Both of these movements and those preceding them were male dominated and as such, it was male conditioning of the time that dictated the inappropriateness of women to paint their own lives yet this is exactly what these women did. It is this autobiographical nature of their work that makes them not only similar but also innovative artists, challenging the conceptions of the time. Their husbands were both influential and successful artists however these women maintained their independence and these common influences created two artists that made headway in the women's art movement.
As far as the art world is concerned, Hester and Kahlo's influences were very similar however in the geographical world they couldn't have been further apart, and these local influences are evident, especially in Kahlo's use of Mexican and Aztec symbols. Self Portrait with monkeys', 1943, demonstrates the heavy use of traditional symbols typical of Kahlo. This painting shows a combination of intricately braided hair, the Bird of Paradise flower, monkeys and traditional blouse. Kahlo carefully considers all elements of her work, including the colours used. This is evident in her choice of symbols to convey a very intricate meaning. In this particular painting the natural elements are heavily integrated into the composition; surrounding Kahlo are vines linking her to nature itself. Kahlo was unable to bear children and her link here to nature, especially with the presence of so many monkeys (a traditional symbol of fertility), may represent her desire to be a part of this aspect of nature. Fertility has a huge presence in this painting as the flower, the white of her shirt, and the lush green vines all symbolise health, fertility and purity, none of which Kahlo herself possessed. Through her symbolism Kahlo created meaning and added emphasis on particular aspects of her life. Critics have likened her tendency to do this to a method of self-creation rather than self-expression. She places herself within a scenario she wishes to be in or a person she recreates herself as, in this painting for example, she would be using her engulfment in fertility symbols as a way of...