Lucas Museum Buys a Frida Kahlo Self Portrait

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
In the L.A. Times, Deborah Vankin reports that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has bought Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser (1940). Going by the online images, it's everything you could want in a Kahlo self portrait. Museum director Sandra Jackson-Dumont calls the painting "the 'Mona Lisa' of Mexico." 

The "narrative" part of the painting is, presumably, the banderole at bottom, dedicating the portrait to Dr. Leo Eloesser, the San Francisco surgeon who treated Kahlo for pain in her hand and foot. The hand grasping the ribbon resembles a milagro, a folk charm for healing. The hand-shaped earrings were a gift from Picasso.

Kahlo painted about 55 self portraits. The most admired group dates from the turbulent period of her 1939 divorce from Diego Rivera and 1940 remarriage. The only comparable work in a U.S. institution is the Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin. The Lucas painting has a unique gravitas, presenting the artist's features in 3/4 view against a stormy sky and autumnal colors. The thorn necklace reflects Kahlo's collection of Catholic devotional imagery.

Whatever you think about Star Wars and Norman Rockwell, this alone will make George Lucas' quirky, high-and-low museum an essential pilgrimage for art lovers. 

The Lucas keeps buying: It has also purchased an early Alice Neel out of the Met's recent retrospective, and a nearly 3000-piece collection of works by Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada.

More Lucas acquisitions, including a Diego Rivera, here.

Alice Neel, Fish Market, 1947
UPDATE: To give some idea of what Lucas must have paid for the Kahlo, Sotheby's will be auctioning a 1949 Kahlo self-portrait, Diego and I, in November. Though Diego and I is from a less prized period and lacks the star quality of the Lucas painting, the estimate is said to be "in excess of $30 million."

P.P.S. The Lucas painting is the cover image for Taschen's new book Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings.


Anonymous said…
Okay. I’m definitely making the pilgrimage. Mr. Lucas, the impressionists and post impressionists were great narrativists(?). Clearly Jasper John’s a disciple of Rockwell and Caravaggio a precursor.
Anonymous said…
As much as critics (including Mr. Poundstone) complain the Lucas won’t be a “real” museum because it won’t have “real” art, the Lucas has been making some really smart purchases lately. It’s true that George Lucas didn’t have the best taste in art, but he was smart and hired people who did.
Anonymous said…
I was hoping the Lucas museums would be more focused, with comic books/strips, graphic novels, illustrations, film/animation movie concept art and drafts, children’s book illustrators and those sort of things. I think it would infinitely be more interesting than the paintings which seem to be a major focus in these new acquisitions. I’m hoping the museum surprises me, but I’m probably not going to be interested in the Normal Rockwells.
Anonymous said…

Sure would be nice if LA's main public art museum weren't such a mess, both financially and operationally. That's the only major fly in the ointment of a more uplifting period in the cultural scene of Los Angeles.