The Art of Misfortune

Frida Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital

It was soon after I began educating myself on art history and the life of all of these extremely talented and influential artists of my past that I began to notice a common trend. That was that most of the artists that I studied had dealt with some sort of personal struggle along the span of their lifetime that reflected among their artworks and therefore played a huge role in their success.

For instance, Van Gogh, who battled bipolar disorder as well as manic depression--illnesses that developed early on in his childhood and carried onto his adulthood, leading him to commit suicide in 1890. Most people are aware of the famous incident in Gogh’s life that involved one of his manic episodes that led him into cutting his ear off. What came out of it was one of his most famous portraits titled, Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Another is Edvard Munch, who at a very young age lost his mother and sister to tuberculosis disease, just to some time later lose his father in 1889. His father’s passing meant that Munch had to take on the responsibility of providing for the rest of his family given that there was no one else to provide for basic necessities. As a result of the pressure that he was in--undertaking this new responsibility while still grieving from having lost various family members--Munch turned to heavy drinking and began to experience intense hallucinations as well as severe anxiety. Munch’s mental struggles are mirrored among many of his paintings, including his famous piece, The Scream, which he described having painted after watching the sky change with sunset into “a blood red.”

Frida Kahlo is another example, who contracted Polio disease at age six and was confined to lay in bed to recover for a total of nine months. This resulted in her legs becoming very thin and her body overall disproportionate in her eyes--something that she continued to be very insecure about and the reason for her style of choice being long skirts to cover her frail legs. By the age of eighteen, Frida was accepted into the National Preparatory School in Mexico City as one of the 35 female