How did Georgia O'Keeffe and Frida Kahlo’s relationships with their partners affect their subject matter?
Georgia O'Keeffe was married to Alfred Stieglitz, and Frida Kahlo was married to Diego Rivera. Both were married to artists who were famous and already established artists. It could be argued that both of these women are now better known than their husbands.
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Both Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo had very rocky relationships with their partners, and it can certainly be argued that the subject matter of their work was affected by these relationships.
Much of Frida Kahlo’s work dealt with here less than flattering feelings about herself and her body. This self image was partly caused by an accident that disfigured Frida’s body when she was young, but there is no doubt that her emotional state was also greatly affected by the fact that her partner, Diego Rivera, was continuously unfaithful to her. Many of her paintings deal with her feelings about her husband and their relationship in a surreal way. The painting The Two Fridas can be interpreted as a depiction of Frida trying to sever herself from the part of her that dearly loves her husband because of the pain and humiliation involved. The painting depicts two full body self portraits connected by veins flowing to two exposed hearts. The Frida on the right holds a small portrait of Diego, confirming the above interpretation while the Frida on the left tries to sever herself by cutting the connecting vein.
It could be argued that Georgia O’Keeffe’s sexually suggestive Jack-in-the-Pulpit series of flower details that resemble female genitalia could have been a reaction to the fact that her partner Alfred Stieglitz used her as the subject for countless portraits. Many of these portraits were very revealing and sexual in nature, and one can’t help but come to the conclusion that O’Keeffe’s flowers were a way of embracing the beauty and power of the female body after her’s had been put on display by Steiglitz.
O’Keeffe discovered the beautiful deserts of New Mexico while searching for a change from her life in New York City with Stieglitz. The New Mexico deserts became the subject matter of some of O’Keeffe’s most well known work.
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