The Airplane Crash
It's unclear as to what motivated Kahlo to paint this disturbing, gruesome and now lost painting. Some speculate that is was the ongoing Spanish Civil War in Spain. At the time, her medical advisor and personal friend, Dr. Eloesser, was a volunteer surgeon in Spain to help the Republican Army. In some letters to family and friends, Dr. Eloesser described the horrible bombings of civilians in Spain. I have not found evidence of a letter to Kahlo, but because of her interest in the war and because Dr. Eloesser was in Spain, chances are he wrote to her also and his descriptions of the carnage may have inspired her to do this painting. There is a doctor in the background of the painting, small and looking powerless, the way Dr. Eloesser felt when witnessing the victims of the aerial raids.
Kahlo was also very active collecting money for the Republicans in Spain. The bombings in Spain, especially in the north, were horrible beyond belief. In 1937, the Germans bombed a place called Guernika, and this inspired the famous painting by Picasso. So it's possible that the same bombings may have inspired Kahlo. Or, she may have seen the Picasso painting and it inspired her to paint her own version.
Others say Kahlo had an obsession with being able to fly and that this painting depicts Kahlo's frustration about not being able to fly. Not sure if I agree with that.
It's very possible that it may have been provoked by an actual plane crash that she read about in the newspaper .the same way that a newspaper article inspired her to paint the bloody and gruesome painting "A Few Small Nips".
Since Kahlo never
explained the meaning to anyone we'll never really know for sure. It will
forever be just "speculation" on the part of the viewer.
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