FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
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FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
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The Collection of Jerry Moss
FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)

Portrait of Cristina, My Sister

FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
Portrait of Cristina, My Sister
signed and dated 'FRIEDA KAHLO, 1928' (lower right)
oil on panel
31 7⁄8 x 23 ¾ in. (79.8 x 60.3 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Cristina Kahlo Pinedo (gift from the artist).
Isolda Pinedo Kahlo (by descent from the above, circa 1964).
Sale, Christie's, New York, 26 November 1985, lot 48.
Private collection, New York; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 21 November 1988, lot 22.
Private collection, New York; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 31 May 2001, lot 15.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
L. Salber, Frida Kahlo, Hamburg, 1977, p. 38 (illustrated).
H. Herrera, A Biography of Frida Kahlo, New York, 1983, no. 13 (illustrated).
M. Zamorra, Frida Kahlo: El Pincel de la Angustia, Mexico City, 1987, p. 256 (illustrated in color).
H. Prignitz-Poda, et al., Frida Kahlo das Gesamtwerk, Frankfurt, 1988, p. 91, no. 12 (illustrated in color).
M. Zamorra, Frida Kahlo: The Brush of Anguish, San Francisco, 1990, p. 49 (illustrated in color).
H. Herrera, Frida Kahlo: The Paintings, New York, 1991, p. 44 (illustrated).
H. Herrera, Frida Kahlo, Die Gemälde, Munich, 1991, p. 31 (illustrated).
A. Kettenman, Frida Kahlo, Frankfurt, 1992, p. 15 (illustrated in color).
S. Grimberg, Frida Kahlo, New York, 1997, p. 44 (illustrated in color).
H. Hererra, Frida, A Biography of Frida Kahlo, New York, 2002, p. 133, no. 13 (illustrated).
H. Prignitz-Poda, et al., Frida Kahlo: The Painter and Her Work, Munich, 2003, p. 24 (illustrated).
S. Grimberg, Frida Kahlo: Confidences, Paris, 2008, p. 80 (illustrated in color).
S. Grimberg, Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself, London, 2008, p. 80 (illustrated in color).
G. Souter, Frida Kahlo, New York, 2012, p. 21 (illustrated in color).
A. Kettenman, Frida Kahlo: Pain and Passion, Cologne, 2016, p. 15 (illustrated in color).
H. Prignitz-Poda, Hidden Frida Kahlo: Lost, Destroyed, or Little Known Works, Munich, 2017, p. 37 (illustrated in color).
L. M. Lozano, ed., Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 2021, pp. 52 and 483, no. 19 (illustrated in color, pp. 52 and 483).
Mexico City, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Frida Kahlo Exposición Nacional Homenaje, September-November 1977, no. 4.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; La Jolla, Mandeville Art Gallery; Phoenix Art Museum; Austin, University Art Gallery; Houston, Blaffer Art Gallery and Purchase, Neuberger Museum, Frida Kahlo (1910-1954), January-March 1978, p. 26 (illustrated).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Philadelphia Museum of Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Frida Kahlo, October 2007-September 2008, p. 132 (illustrated in color).
Further details
We are grateful to Professor Luis-Martín Lozano for his assistance cataloguing this work.

We are also grateful to Dr. Salomon Grimberg for his assistance cataloguing this work.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“She lives a little bit in the…ether,” Frida once reflected of Cristina, the youngest of the four Kahlo sisters and in later years her closest confidante and caretaker. “Lively, generous, and beguilingly feminine,” in the words of Kahlo’s biographer Hayden Herrera, Cristina epitomizes a stylish, modern femininity in the present portrait with her sleek bob and red, Kewpie-doll lips (H. Herrera, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, New York, 1983, p. 182). Born in June 1908, only eleven months after Frida, Cristina was nineteen or twenty at the time this portrait was made; by the following year, she had married and become a mother. The painting came at a pivotal moment for Frida, as well. She had sufficiently recovered from a life-threatening (and life-defining) accident, when a trolley struck a bus that she was riding and a handrail impaled her pelvis, to venture out into the world again. “As soon as they gave me permission to walk and to go out in the street,” Kahlo recalled, “I went, carrying my paintings, to see Diego Rivera, who at that time was painting the frescoes in the corridors of the Ministry of Education” (quoted in ibid., p. 87). Portrait of Cristina, My Sister may well have been among the paintings that she showed to Rivera, already renowned as Mexico’s preeminent muralist and, within the next year, her husband. Cristina would remain a steadfast presence and companion throughout Frida’s life, and this early portrait captures her dreamy, ethereal elegance, just on the cusp of womanhood, and remains a testament to the abiding affection between the two sisters.

“I never thought of painting until 1926,” Kahlo later wrote to the Surrealist dealer Julien Levy, “when I was in bed on account of an automobile accident. I was bored as hell in bed with a plaster cast. . . . I stoled [sic] from my father some oil paints, and my mother ordered for me a special easel…and I started to paint” (quoted in H. Herrera, op. cit., pp. 63-4). “Kahlo’s first painted portraits, from 1926 and 1927, were inevitably marked by the classic style of photographic portraiture that prevailed in the early 20th century,” explains art historian Luis-Martín Lozano, noting the influence of her father Guillermo. “The discipline and rigor Guillermo brought to his work as a photographer had a significant influence on his daughter who first learned in his studio how to bring photographs to life by retouching them with painstakingly detailed brushstrokes and thus add delicate touches of color to the portraits. She also learned about composition from working with her father’s photographs, and about how light and shadow behaved” (Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings, Köln, 2021, p. 24). Self-taught as a painter and guided by her father, Kahlo immersed herself in the study of art history from the Old Masters—Holbein and Titian, Cranach and Dürer—to the contemporary European and Mexican avant-gardes during her convalescence. She particularly admired the portraits of Cinquecento master Bronzino, whose mannerist aesthetics informed the refinement and affectations of her early works. Like many Renaissance paintings, Portrait of Cristina is painted on a wood panel (here inserted into a stretcher frame), an unusual choice for Kahlo but one that enabled her to continue the composition beyond the frame, a technique repeated in later works.

At first, Kahlo focused on portraits of friends—namely the Cachucas, her closest schoolmates from her time at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria—and family members. Portrait of Cristina, My Sister is one of a handful of paintings from the late 1920s that portray fashionable female subjects with both Cinquecento stylizations and modernist flourishes, among them Portrait of Alicia Galant (1927), Portrait of Ruth Stallsmith (1927), and Portrait of Dorothy Fox Brown (c. 1929). In these works, Kahlo revisited the bold, dynamic aesthetic of Mexico’s Stridentist movement, founded by the poet Manuel Maples Arce and in vogue in the early 1920s, and explored the unflinching “new realism” suggested by the New Objectivity movement, advanced by German artists including Otto Dix, George Grosz, and Christian Schad and well-known in Stridentist circles by the second half of the decade. Kahlo “fully embraced the ideas of New Objectivity” in Portrait of Cristina, My Sister and Two Women (Portrait of Salvadora and Herminia), both painted in 1928 in the Casa Azul, her family home in Coyoacán. “It is apparent in these works how exceptionally well Kahlo has developed in terms of her technical abilities,” Lozano declares. “In place of the earlier distortions she had borrowed from Italian mannerism there is now a realistic style of representation, with accomplished drawing skills and restraint in the composition. The stylistic artifice of the previous works has been left behind and instead the modernity of her time has been captured with remarkable visual clarity. The manner of painting Kahlo used in the portrait of her sister Cristina bears a close similarity to the portraits painted by Christian Schad between 1925 and 1926. Cristina is shown posing in an idyllic landscape with metaphysical associations, in which the leaves of a grapefruit tree (Citrus paradisi) are encroaching on one side, an allusion, therefore, to the Tree of Knowledge, of truth and life, from that lost Biblical paradise, which turns Cristina into an Eve for the modern world” (L.-M. Lozano, op. cit., p. 24).

Like Eve, Cristina succumbed to a temptation—inevitably, perhaps, to an affair with Rivera around 1934—that briefly caused a rupture in her relationship with Frida. At Frida’s suggestion, Cristina had posed for Rivera as Knowledge, a voluptuous nude in his mural at the Ministerio de Salud (1929); sitting beside Frida, she remained an object of desire in his National Palace mural (c. 1934). The affair devastated Frida, far more than any other of Rivera’s liaisons, but she and Cristina reconciled by 1935, and Cristina “became once more her chief companion, her ally in adventure and solace and pain” (H. Herrera, op. cit., p. 195).

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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