Frida Kahlo's surrealist painting Henry Ford Hospital was created in 1932 after she had a miscarriage. The painting is on display and owned by The Dolores Olmedo museum in Mexico.
The painting is an emotional and disturbing self-portrait representing her psychological condition at the time. Her husband Diego Rivera encouraged Frida to produce this painting with oil paint on a metal frame. The use of these materials is unusual but historically has been used by several notable Mexican artists. Diego hoped that by Frida creating this work that it would help with her recovery. The couple had a turbulent relationship but it cannot be denied that they held a great love for each other. In this painting we see a disturbing view of Frida lying naked on a hospital bed that has Henry Ford Hospital written on the side.
The angle at which the bed and her body are positioned expresses a feeling of helplessness. In the background of the picture we can see an industrial complex which is The Ford factory at Detroit. With two references to Henry Ford in this picture is she acknowledging the help that she received from The Henry Ford Hospital or in her state of depression did she feel resentment. Frida is laying on the bed in a pool of blood holding her stomach, a single tear is on her cheek. There are six red cords that emanate from her open hand that rests on her stomach. The end of each cord is tied to an object.
There is a snail that Frida said referred to how long it took for her to miscarry. Next to the snail in the centre is a male foetus, an expression of her desire to have a boy. To the left is a model of the female reproductive organs and spinal column that perhaps attempts to connect her previous skeletal problems to her reproductive problems. Below this is a small metallic object that has the appearance of a machine. It is not a recognizable device so perhaps a question. A body is like a machine, a machine can be repaired, why can my body not be repaired? To the right of the machine is a purple orchid.
Diego had given her an orchid so perhaps with this she is acknowledging his support during this time. To the right of the orchid is a pelvic bone that appears to be slight distorted or damaged representing her inability to have children. Henry Ford Hospital is a painting with perhaps the most clear use of symbolism, each item placed side-by-side where as other places would hide such elements within the foreground and background. This provided a longevity to those paintings, but also left behind room for discussion and confusion about which items were added for these symbolic values, and also just what exactly their messages should be.
Frida Kahlo produced a number of portraits with the subjects in bed. This includes My Birth, where she captures her own birth, complete with soiled sheets that tell the story of what has just happened. Beyond that you will also find A Few Small Nips, which features a fairly brutal depiction of medical care. It was also timed just as she became aware of her husband's misdemeanors, which left her emotionally broken. Her dramatic scenes of pain and anguish have successfully built a strong following of support, partly due to her consistent role as the woman who was talented but also taken advantage of. Modern society is growing in support for female rights and this has helped to make Frida Kahlo a true icon, almost a martyr for the mistreated gender.