The Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky is a remarkable work of art made by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, one of the most renowned female artists of the 20th century. This work is steeped in history, controversy, and aesthetic creativity. The subject of this oil painting on Masonite represents a specific occasion in the artist’s life. It honours Leon Trotsky, an exiled Russian revolutionary leader, and the brief liaison Kahlo had with him soon after he arrived in Mexico in 1937. Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky is 30 by 24 inches in size and was completed in 1937. This particular piece of art, one of Frida Kahlo’s most well-known self-portraits, reflects her unwavering devotion to the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The piece of art memorialises Kahlo’s artistic vision, her persistent dedication to the communist cause, and her deep affection for Trotsky.

Story behind the Art: Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky by Frida Kahlo. [Painting] (©NMWA).
Famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is known for her autobiographical, surrealist, and very personal works of art. Her life experiences significantly impacted her. She was an expert in self-portraits and frequently used them. They as bare canvases to impose her artistic vision. Kahlo participated in politics and belonged to the Mexican Communist Party. She advocated for the rights of the working class and was a strong opponent of capitalism and imperialism, much like Trotsky. During his exile in Mexico in 1937, she first met Trotsky, and the two quickly grew close. Trotsky’s revolutionary beliefs influenced Kahlo, who also held him in high regard.

The Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky is proof of Kahlo’s esteem for Leon Trotsky, and her distinct artistic viewpoint and way of thinking. She combines elements of herself and Trotsky in this painting to produce a potent and seductive piece of art. Trotsky played a big role in Kahlo’s life, and because they shared the same political ideologies, she had a strong affection for him.

In the Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, Kahlo imagined herself in a stage-like setting. Kahlo looks poised and self-assured while holding a bouquet and a note addressed to Trotsky and begins, “With all my love.” She is dressed in a long, embroidered skirt, an exquisite Tehuana, i.e. a traditional Mexican outfit, a fringed shawl and delicate gold jewellery to exude elegance. Her face is grave and contemplative. The painting’s background is black, with a faint outline of the horizon and glimpses of greenery.

Kahlo’s use of colour in this work is particularly amazing. The bright, startling colours of her clothing produce a stark, deliberate contrast with the dark surroundings. The outfit is embroidered with intricate designs and symbols significant to Kahlo’s cultural heritage. The feathers on her hat are also meaningful since they represent the Aztec god of valour and combat.

Notably, Kahlo’s left hand is holding the portrait of Trotsky. Since the left hand is typically thought to represent the heart, Kahlo implies that her love and adoration for Trotsky are heartfelt by holding his painting with this hand. This is supported by the fact that she is holding the portrait so close to her chest.

Kahlo’s self-portrait is a tribute to Trotsky and a statement of her revolutionary beliefs. When Kahlo painted the world, it was in turmoil, with the rise of fascism and the prospect of another world war looming large. She opposes the traditional gender stereotypes of her era by presenting herself as a powerful, self-assured, and unapologetic woman. Her outfit, traditionally worn by women, is changed into a representation of power and sexism. By painting this self-portrait, Kahlo honoured Trotsky and emphasised her political beliefs. Kahlo showed her allegiance to the man that Stalin’s regime had suppressed to show her support for the communist cause.

Admittedly, the artwork also influenced Kahlo personally, which would last a lifetime. Kahlo thought Trotsky had developed a romantic interest in her and had pursued her. Their marriage was forever changed by Rivera’s intense jealousy of their love because of their long-standing relationship with Trotsky.

To conclude, Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky is a powerful work of art that beautifully depicts her nuanced personality and political viewpoints. It stands as a testament to her artistic vision, unflinching commitment to Trotsky’s revolutionary convictions, and a declaration of her feminist aspirations. It also tells a highly personal story of Kahlo’s encounters with Rivera and Trotsky and how those interactions affected her life. The art shows how history can be preserved through art and how stories that shape our world can be shared. Undeniably, the painting, which remains one of Kahlo’s most well-known works, has impacted both art and culture. The Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky is more than just a painting; it is a piece of history.


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Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937, 70×87 cm by Frida Kahlo: History, Analysis & Facts (no date) Arthive. Available at: (Accessed: March 22, 2023).

Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky (no date) Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky by Frida Kahlo. Available at: (Accessed: March 23, 2023).

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Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937 – Google Arts & Culture (no date) Google. Google. Available at: (Accessed: March 21, 2023).



Osama Nasir is a creative architecture student with a passion for art and history & a serendipitous explorer as a person. He believes architecture is made up of millions of untold stories preserved in heritage and culture. He wants to portray his concepts into the field of architecture by considering the community needs and bringing the past into the future with a minimal approach.