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Frida Kahlo and the Cancer Self-Portrait

What sign do you think is most prone to self-portraits? Most people would probably say Leo. After all, Leo people are noted for their egos and for their vanity. But, on closer examination, artists born with the Sun or a predominance of placements in Leo don’t do that many self-portraits. It is the Cancer artists who lead the pack in this area.

This shouldn’t be surprising. A self-portrait is an examination of one’s self. Done right, it will include the flawed along with the beautiful features. And done particularly well, it goes beneath the surface to bring out deep, psychological conflicts. This kind of painstaking self-examination is not the stuff of Leo. It’s a Cancer quality.

One painter who exemplified Cancer’s fixation with self-examination was Frida Kahlo. Kahlo painted herself over and over, and in each painting she delves into a different part of her emotional life: her love for her husband, Diego Rivera, her relationship with her homeland, Mexico, her medical problems, her love of animals, and so on. No two of these Kahlo self-portraits are alike, and yet all of them are of her. In this way Kahlo shows us how rich and full just one life can be. (Click here to see a gallery of her work.)

Kahlo was born with the Sun in Cancer opposed to by Mars and Uranus, two violent planets. (Click here to see her chart.) When she was a teenager, the artist was involved in a terrible traffic accident in which she was impaled by a metal rod. She spent months recuperating. It was during this period that Kahlo began painting. 

After her marriage to Diego Rivera, Kahlo seemed content to slip into the shadow of her famous husband. Rivera was a painter of giant murals that told tales of social struggle and political ideology. While Diego was working on his walls, Kahlo would sit in a corner, quietly painting on a small canvas. No one paid much attention to what she was doing. Her pictures were deemed too personal, too biographical to have real value.

Now, Rivera’s mighty murals, though dynamic and beautiful, seem like relics from a bygone age. The political and historical context that inspired them no longer has relevance. Kahlo’s “personal” paintings, on the other hand, speak to every generation. Cancer’s viewpoint is narrow. It is subjective. But by going deep within the self, Cancer can find feelings and ideas that are universal.

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