Art & Identity


A fictional conversation between Artstein, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh, exploring the relationship between art and identity.

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Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.

Artstein: What do you think of this statement? Is a piece of art the reflection of its artist?

Vincent: Yes, I believe "paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter's soul."

Pablo: "A painter paints to unload himself of feelings and visions," but "everyone wants to understand painting. Why is there no attempt to understand the song of the birds?"

Artstein: Maybe it is because we still couldn't define what really art is with one specific definition. And we can't measure what is art, and what is not art with one specific formula.

Pablo: "Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs."

Artstein: What do you think art is then? Do you think we can define it, a piece of work reflecting the artist's own identity?

Pablo: “People want to find a meaning in everything and everyone. That's the disease of our age...” “When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.” So maybe asking this question is more correct; "Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it?" but “What is a face really? It's own photo? It's makeup? Or is it a face as painted by such or such painter? Doesn't everyone look at himself in his own particular way?”

Vincent: "For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream", and then "I dream my painting, and then I paint my painting."

Frida: "I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality."

Artstein: So art is a mirror to artists' own self?

Frida: As I just said, “I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”

Artstein: In other words..

Pablo: "Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."

Artstein: We keep using the word, painting, so what is a painting then?

Pablo: "Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen." but "some painters turn a yellow dot into the sun, others turn the sun into a yellow dot."

Artstein: Do you think artists paint a painting for themselves, or for other people?

Pablo: “What do you think an artist is? ... He is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.”

Vincent: “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly'."

Frida: "Painting completed my life," but "my painting carries with it the message of pain."

Vincent: “The sadness will last forever.”, “Art is to console those who are broken by life.”

Frida: So, "I paint flowers, so they don't die"

Artstein: Frida, do you believe you are were meant to experience these painful moments, so you can paint?

Frida: Well, "There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst."

Artstein: And they are the main subject of your paintings..

Vincent: "Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy."

Frida: "I loved him more than my own skin."

Vincent: "There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

Frida's Letter to Diego, from The Diary of Frida Kahlo - An Intimate Self-Portrait

Frida's Letter to Diego, from The Diary of Frida Kahlo - An Intimate Self-Portrait

Artstein: Frida, I have a letter of you to Diego next to me. Your words are really powerful. It gives me goose-bumps. Can I read a section of it out loud ?

Frida: Of course.


"He doesn't see the color.

He has the colour.

I make the shape.

He doesn't look at it.

He doesn't give the life he has.

He has life.

Warm and white is his voice.

He stayed but never arrived.

I'm leaving."

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Pablo: "Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions."

Artstein: Do you have a favourite colour that you use in your paintings?

Vincent: "I never get tired of the blue sky." but, "there is no blue without yellow and without orange."

Pablo: I was using blue "for a long time - I limited myself to one colour — as a form of discipline." but still today, "if I don't have red, I use blue."

Frida: Ah, blue!.. "Electricity and purity love"

Artstein: Love this painting of yours, Frida. It is unreal!

Frida: "Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself."

Artstein: Frida, you have produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits. Why so many ?

Frida: "I am my own muse. I am the subject I know the best," and "because I am so often alone....because I am the subject I know best."

Artstein: What about you, Vincent? You also do have many self-portraits.

Vincent: Well, “I purposely bought a mirror good enough to enable me to work from my image in default of a model, because if I can manage to paint the colouring of my own head, which is not to be done without some difficulty, I shall likewise be able to paint the heads of other good souls, men and women.”

Artstein: Pablo, what is your inspiration? Do you believe in inspiration?

Pablo: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” "When you come right down to it, all you have is yourself. The sun is a thousand rays in your belly. All the rest is nothing."