Portrait of Miguel N. Lira1927 by Frida Kahlo

41½ x 29

Tlaxcalteca Institute of Culture
Tlaxcala, Mexico

Some of Frida's first attempts at painting were portraits of friends and family. This portrait is of the poet/writer Miguel N. Lira. Lira was also a member of The Cachucas, a young people's political group, and was nicknamed Chong Lee by Frida because of his love for Chinese poetry. The portrait was requested by Lira himself. In the painting Lira is poised in the foreground with a background of eclectic symbols and objects, some of which are representative of his name. The Archangel Michael to his right symbolizes his forename Miguel while the lyre harp above his head refers to his surname Lira. He holds an open book with symbols of fertility and Hebrew letters.

The colors in this painting are dark and gloomy which are common in Kahlo's paintings from this period. The background style reflects Frida's obscure primitive version of Cubism while the portrait of Lira uses elements borrowed from the Renaissance painter Botticelli and the Italian painter Modigliani.

Frida was very displeased with this painting and in a letter to her boyfriend Alejandro Gómez Arias she wrote: "I am painting a portrait of Lira, totally ugly. He wanted it with a background in the style of Gómez de la Serna. It's so bad that I simply don't know how he can tell me he likes it. Totally horrible…"
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Media: oil on canvas