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Photography

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Lucienne Bloch, American, (1909–1999)
Frida Kahlo in Front of the Unfinished Unity Panel, New Workers School, New York City, 1933
Photographic materials on paper
14 x 11 in. (35.56 x 27.94 cm)


Object Type: Photography
Technique: Gelatin silver Process
Credit Line: Purchase, Scripps Collectors' Circle
Accession Number: 2013.3.1


Commentary
Lucienne Bloch was an accomplished artist in a range of mediums, but she is best known for her photography. Beginning as an apprentice in 1929, Bloch worked closely alongside Diego Rivera to document his murals. Particularly famed are her images of Rivera’s 1934 Man at the Crossroads mural, which was commissioned for Rockefeller Center and controversially destroyed shortly after its creation. Thus, Bloch’s photographs are the only records of the original work before its early demise. Through her work with Rivera, Bloch not only formed a close friendship with the renowned muralist, but she also became close with his wife, Frida Kahlo.

The photograph shown here offers a uniquely personal view of the artist Frida Kahlo. Bloch captures an intimate side of Kahlo, one that reflects their close friendship. Bloch shows her as pensive and confident, with Frida casually seated in front of the unfinished Unity Panel mural, which her husband was in the process of painting. Located at the New Workers School in New York, the Unity Panel presents a troika of revolutionary figures, Karl Marx (1818-1883), Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), and Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), who loom above the artist. Yet Kahlo appears unfazed by their strikingly aggressive depiction and bold expressions. Rather, she rests her head in hand, absorbed in her own thoughts.

Bloch’s privileged perspective is seen in this photograph, which reveals the personal connections among Bloch, Kahlo, and Rivera. Thus, this photograph can be read as a portrait of the intersecting lives of these three prominent artists.

Skye Olson ’13
Wilson intern 2012

***

Lucienne Bloch first met Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo during a banquet in 1931. After an extended conversation about his frescos, Rivera agreed to accept Bloch as an apprentice. Bloch attempted to show her gratitude by shaking Kahlo’s hand. Kahlo’s jealous response was simply, “I hate you.” Bloch’s photography sought subjects that provided unrestrained expressions of humanity, and Kahlo did just that by baring her insecurity and callousness. Bloch was drawn to Kahlo’s bluntness and the two quickly become close friends. The friendship proved a fruitful one, with Bloch taking some of the most famed photographic portraits of Kahlo. This piece in particular highlights the relationships that Bloch sustained with both Kahlo and her husband.

Laura Woods, SCR ’18

Marks
The artist has signed the work, "Lucienne Bloch," in the lower right hand corner in black ink.

Medium
gelatin silver print

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