If the highlighted words are true; this is a truly significant painting; beyond the association with Luther Burbank. Imagine if this was indeed a pivotal change in Frida Kallo’s style. Just the fact that these two met each other is remarkable by itself.
Luther Burbank was a horticulturist best known for his unusual vegetable and fruit hybrids. In this portrait Frida shows Burbank himself as a hybrid: half man, half tree. When Burbank died in 1926, his body was buried under a tree on his California property.
In this painting her work has turned away for the first time from the straightforward representation of external reality. Since this portrait was painted in San Francisco, her contact with Surrealism in San Francisco could partly account for the change in style. Or, it could be straight from her Mexican culture, where the metamorphosis of humans into plants or animals is a common theme in art.
Burbank is shown holding an uprooted plant, no doubt one of his hybrids, but instead of planting it, he himself is planted. His lower legs are transformed into a tree trunk whose roots are fed by what Frida said was his own corpse. This painting is the first statement of a favorite Kahlo theme that would appear in many future paintings: “the fertilization of life by death“.
LUTHER BURBANK developed more than 800 varieties of plants, over 200 variety of fruits and vegetables. Born in Lancaster, Ma on March 7, 1849, moving to Santa Rosa, Ca in 1875 where he died April 11, 1926.
I am descended from the Burbanks ( my maternal great-grandmother was a Burbank).
Some of his creations were: the shasta daisy, the pink lady, spineless cactus, russet potato, seedless grapes, and so many more.
He sold the rights to the russet potato and with that money moved from Lancaster, Ma to Santa Rosa, Ca; where he continued his research and development until his death in 1926.