By OneselfWhy painters paint themselves.

By OneselfWhy painters paint themselves.

If eyes are the window to the soul, then what can we learn from a self-portrait? Take Frida Kahlo, perhaps the world’s most iconic self-portraitist. Much of her enduring legacy, as explored in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s summer exhibition, Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, remains centered around the vivid visual power of her person as told through her self-portraits. What do we uncover of Kahlo through them? “In Frida’s case, she was not thinking of becoming famous when she was painting herself,” says Hilda Trujillo, director of both the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City.

As Trujillo points out, the first time that Kahlo recreated her own image was for love: When imploring a boyfriend “not to forget about her,” she sent him a beautiful...

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