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The Suicide of Dorothy Hale

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Dorothy Hale jumped out of the window of her high rise apartment on October 21st 1938. She was wearing a black dress with a corsage of yellow roses. Hale was struggling financially, although she was an actress, the sexism and ageism of Hollywood was slowly bleeding her dry. Matters were made worse when her husband was killed in a car accident. At the time of her death Dorothy was relying on help from friends to maintain her lifestyle.

After her suicide, Clare Boothe Luce commissioned Frida Kahlo to paint a portrait of Hale to commemorate her life. Frida took the opportunity to paint a devastatingly beautiful portrayal of the literal suicide. Frida painted in a retablo style depicting the suicide from start to finish. The top of the painting sequences Dorothy’s decent through a cloud ridden sky to the street below. Painted blood drips from Dorothy’s lifeless body out onto the frame. At the time the graphic nature of the painting caused controversy and the Clare Boothe Luce almost destroyed it. Fortunately the painting survived, only undergoing a few alterations. Today it is on display at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Ish Lipman | Staff Editor

Painting by: Frida Kahlo

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