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Pain into Art

The Wounded Deer, 1946 by Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo dealt with a lifetime of pain starting with Polio at the age of 6 to a bus accident that fractured her pelvis, ribs, spine, legs, and collarbone. That accident left her with chronic pain, but she also discovered a passion for art.

This painting by Kahlo was done before a spine surgery that was supposed to help her severe pain but leave her bedridden for a year. The surgery did leave her bedridden for a year however, it did not help her pain. In her painting, she depicts a deer with her head that is wounded and surrounded by dead trees. You are able to see the sky past the trees. In the left bottom corner of this painting, Kahlo wrote “Carma” which meant fate. This painting is expressing the pain that Kahlo is going through yet in the distance there is hope (the sky) even if she may never get there. This piece of art helped me realize the many emotions that come with chronic pain such as disappointment, hope, and even hopelessness. ┬áThe human pain experience is truly unique to each individual.

How does this painting depict the human pain experience to you?


Altruism, Love, and Morality


Writer’s Choice: Fear of the Unknown


  1. My interpretation of this art is more on a physical plane. I understand that I will never have the body of a deer like the one depicted or hopefully ever be filled with arrows, but the main idea I see is kind of how humans can keep moving on with life even with chronic pain hindering us. Through the eyes of an inexperience hunter, the prey that they just attacked may yet live and escape from the situation even though while in constant pain. The wound from this attack may last for a while and continue to bother them in their life. Much the same is physical debilitating chronic ailments towards humans such as OA or RA etc. Those disorders inflict grievous internal wounds to our bodies and yet we push on running in the line of life until finally they heal (never) or until we succumb to fate.

  2. Amy,

    This is such a profound piece of art that really depicts the strength it must have taken Frida Kahlo to perservere through such pain. I think your observations are spot on. Even though the deer has clearly been injured numerous times, she is still standing, and there is still hope. I also appreciate how you noted that both hope and hopelessness are represented in this painting. Particularly in physical therapy, there’s such a fine line that we as practitioners must walk between hope and hopelessness for our patients. We need to find ways to keep them positive and focused on the progress, while simultaneously avoiding feeding them false hope or dragging their spirits down with the grimness of reality.

    Great post!

  3. Amy,

    I really appreciate your analysis of the painting and your dialogue on the power of hope. Even with the gravitas of what she is depicting in her painting, you still get a feel of some positive undertones. Maybe because of her calm expression, or her use of warm colors, or like you said, the horizon peeking through the trees showing blue skies.

    I wonder why Kahlo specifically chose to depict herself as a deer and not another animal, and I’m curious about the lack of leaves on the tree beside the one branch on the forest floor. This may be a stretch, but it’s a common trope in popular culture and literature for forests dying and re-growing to symbolize growth and new beginnings. So I guess this painting to me depicts perhaps pain being a new experience that will involve a lot of growth over time.

  4. How does this painting depict the human pain experience to you?

    It makes me think of pain that can be inflicted with vengeful /hateful words. Like using arrows to shoot and hunt someone down. These arrows reminded me of the pain that can be inflicted by something as simple as words coming out of someones mouth. It can really kill you on the inside.

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