In the foreground, staring directly at the viewer, white tears visible on her cheeks, the artist lies immobile in a four poster hospital bed, only her head visible above the white sheet covering that is decorated with pale, pastel circles of cells or microscopic organisms.  The towering wooden oak easel that held her canvases, allowing Frida to paint when ill, is now the structure supporting a funnel of physical and emotional preoccupations erupting as vomit from her mouth: fish heads, dead chicken carcasses and fowl entrails, and skull inscribed with her name.  The background is a barren, parched and cracked desert.  The solitary objects in the sky, a moon and red-orange rimmed sun, suggest being trapped eternally, day and night, in this state, "Without Hope" --the painting's title. On the back of the painting Kahlo wrote, "Not the least hope remains to me....Everything moves in tune with what the belly contains."  [Hayden Herrera. Frida Kahlo: The Paintings (New York: HarperPerennial) 2002, p. 187]


The skull, and sun whose shape and color resembles a marigold, are suggestive symbols of the Day of the Dead festival, when families commemorate their dead by bringing sugar skulls, food, and flowers while picnicking on their gravesites.

Neither illness nor death seem to be tragedies as much as isolation and depersonalization in the self-portraits of Kahlo's medical experiences.  In "Tree of Hope," "The Broken Column," and even "Henry Ford Hospital," by staring directly at the viewer, Kahlo challenges us to share the helplessness and suffering of being in alien, sterile settings unrelieved by human touch, companionship, or support.

Juxtaposed with Elizabeth Layton’s "The Courtroom," in which nutritious food is being poured through a funnel into the mouth of a comatose patient, the question, or interpretation, of force feeding is raised.  Whether force-fed, or regurgitating, Kahlo’s frustration (as Layton's) is unmistakable.


Painted in 1945

Primary Source

Hayden Herrera. Frida Kahlo: The Paintings (New York: HarperPerennial) 2002, p. 186; Frank Milner. Frida Kahlo (New York: Smithmark) 1995, pp. 66-67