Henry Ford Hospital (the Flying Bed) by Frida Kahlo

“Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)” by Frida Kahlo – A Look

Frida Kahlo was not only a well-known artist that inspired, and continues to inspire, people around the world. She was also a woman with hopes and dreams that got dashed. This article will discuss Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932), which was one of Kahlo’s visual depictions of how she suffered through a miscarriage.



Artist Abstract: Who Was Frida Kahlo?

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who lived from July 6, 1907, to July 13, 1954. She did not fit into any specific style, but her style ranged from Naïve Art, Surrealism, and Magic Realism. She became one of the most inspirational and influential female artists of her time; her art continues to catalyze discourses around femininity, sexuality, disabilities, and dealing with a wide spectrum of pain. She was also married to one of the leading mural artists of his time, Diego Rivera. Kahlo created numerous artworks throughout her life, reportedly over 50 self-portraits, which include some popular pieces like The Two Fridas (1939), The Broken Column (1944), and The Wounded Deer (1946). 

Henry Ford Hospital Painting Frida Kahlo photographed (1932) by Guillermo Kahlo; Guillermo Kahlo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932) by Frida Kahlo in Context

ArtistFrida Kahlo
Date Painted 1932
Medium Oil on metal
GenreGenre painting
Period / Movement Naïve Art
Dimensions (cm)30.5 x 38
Series / Versions N/A
Where Is It Housed?Dolores Olmedo Museum, Mexico City, Mexico
What It Is Worth N/A

In the Henry Ford Hospital painting analysis below, we will discuss a brief backstory around why Frida Kahlo painted this oil on a sheet metal, which measures 30.5 x 38 centimeters, and how it relates to her miscarriage during the time she was in Detroit city in the United States. We will also discuss a formal analysis of Kahlo’s artistic style according to the art elements and principles.


Contextual Analysis: A Brief Socio-Historical Overview

Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) by Frida Kahlo depicts a moment from the artist’s life that was not only physically painful but emotionally wrought; she had lost another baby while she was in Detroit City with her husband Diego Rivera. The reasons why Kahlo had suffered from numerous failed pregnancies tie back to her early years. 

She was around 18 years old (in 1925) when she was in a bus accident, which left her with several injuries that would remain with her throughout her life, most notably severely the spinal and pelvic injuries, which compromised her reproductive health.



Formal Analysis: A Brief Compositional Overview

The formal analysis below will discuss a more in-depth visual description of Frida Kahlo’s Henry Ford Hospital painting as well as understanding her art style according to the elements of art and what is known as the design principles.  

Miscarriage Painting Analysis Self Portrait; Between México and the United, (1932) by Frida Kahlo; Ambra75, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Subject Matter: Visual Description

The painting Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) by Frida Kahlo depicts herself, as tender, saddened, completely vulnerable in her nakedness, and relatively small and helpless on what appears to be a slightly large hospital bed.

She is depicted as lying on her back, with both her legs slightly curled up towards her, and a large teardrop falling from her left eye, indicating her sadness. There is also a large patch of blood on the white-sheeted bed, directly under her genital area. Her hands are cupped over the left side of her lower stomach area where six red cords or strings originate. The six cords/strings are all tied to six objects around the figure of Kahlo, of which three float above her and three are on the ground next to the bed. These objects are all symbolic of some part of Kahlo’s experience during her miscarriage.

Looking at the upper three objects, to the right, is a snail, which is believed to symbolize the lengthy or slow timeframe of her miscarriage, the string is tied around its extended neck area. In the center is the small fetal figure, which is a boy and allegedly what the artist wanted, and the string is tied to its umbilical region. 

The object to the left is known as an orthopedic cast of what appears to be a pregnant stomach region, propped on what appears to be a metal stand, it also has an image of a spine on it, all of which are suggestive of Kahlo’s spinal and pelvic injuries that have caused her reproductive challenges. The string is tied around the metal stand portion.

The other three objects on the ground, just below the bed, starting from the left, is a metal object, what appears to be a medical machine-like structure, and the string is tied to what appears to be one of its levers. In the center is a purple flower, specifically an Orchid, which Diego reportedly gifted to Kahlo and the red string is tied around the flower’s stem. To the right is what appears to be a realistic portrayal of an entire pelvic girdle region and the string is tied around the left ilium.

Kahlo presents herself in what appears to be an outside area, the lower half of the composition appears ground-like without any form of vegetation. The top half of the composition has a vast blue sky with clouds. Where the ground meets the sky, the horizon line, is the Detroit cityscape, and more specifically, it is reportedly the River Rogue Plant of the Ford Motor Company. 



Frida Kahlo utilized a variety of colors in her miscarriage painting with dominance on more earthy colors like browns and beiges and skin tones to softer purples and blues seen in the flower and the sky. There is color harmony in the Henry Ford Hospital painting and no stark color contrasts are evident.



The Henry Ford Hospital painting depicts organic, naturalistic, lines, especially a variety of curved lines that delineate the objects and figure of Kahlo in the foreground including the curved lines created by the cords/strings attached to Kahlo. There are also more geometric lines, for example, the vertical lines of the bed’s ends, of which repetition creates a patterned effect. There is a strong horizontal line implied by the horizon and the smaller geometric lines that compose the shapes of the cityscape in the background. 

There is a unity of lines created by the contrast of curved and geometric lines. 



Frida Kahlo utilized oil paints in her Henry Ford Hospital miscarriage painting and the brushstrokes are physically visible too, however, there is also implied texture suggesting the tactile qualities of the different objects, for example, the sheen of the metal or the folds of the bed’s sheets.


Shape and Form

A similar variety of organic and geometric shapes and forms is created in the painting Henry Ford Hospital by Frida Kahlo. For example, the natural figurative form of Kahlo’s body on the bed and the fetus, as well as the objects throughout the composition. Geometric shapes can be seen composing the cityscape, from squares, rectangles, cylinders, and triangles. There is also a larger rectangular shape of the bed, placed at a diagonal angle in the foreground, which creates a contrasting effect with the horizontal shape created by the horizon line of the composition, which also subtly divides the composition into two rectangular parts.



Kahlo created a contrast of size by how she placed herself on the bed in the foreground; the bed appears almost too large for Kahlo’s smaller figure, which created more emphasis on the meaning of the painting, heightening the emotional intensity of what she experienced and is expressing visually. Perspective is also created by the cityscape in the background, which appears diminished in size compared to the foreground. 



Kahlo’s Undying Hospital Homage

Around her are six objects symbolizing her ordeal and ultimately her inherent emotions and desires linked to each just like the cords/strings attaching them to her in the depiction. This is a heartfelt and sad rendering of Kahlo’s reality, fraught with the death of her unborn son and desires, but it is ultimately her homage to one thing she could control, which was her undying love.

Miscarriage Painting Frida Kahlo with a Doll (1913) by unknown photographer; See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


This article briefly discussed the miscarriage painting “Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)” by Frida Kahlo, which she painted in 1932 after her miscarriage in Detroit City. It depicts the small and exposed figure of Kahlo on a hospital bed, bloodied in the remains of what she just endured.



Take a look at our Henry Ford Hospital painting webstory here!



Frequently Asked Questions


Who Painted Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)?

Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932) was painted by Frida Kahlo. It has become a popular, but equally emotional miscarriage painting by the Mexican artist. She painted it after experiencing a miscarriage at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  


Where Is the Painting Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) by Frida Kahlo Located?

Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932) by Frida Kahlo is held at the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City, Mexico.


What Are the Six Symbols in the Henry Ford Hospital by Frida Kahlo?

In the Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932) painting Frida Kahlo, she depicts herself as the central figure with six objects attached to her, which have been described as representing so-called umbilical cords. The six objects include a snail, a male fetus, a cast of a pelvic region, a medical machine, a flower, and a pelvic girdle bone.


Cite this Article

Alicia, du Plessis, ““Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)” by Frida Kahlo – A Look.” Art in Context. April 17, 2023. URL: https://artincontext.org/henry-ford-hospital-the-flying-bed-by-frida-kahlo/

du Plessis, A. (2023, 17 April). “Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)” by Frida Kahlo – A Look. Art in Context. https://artincontext.org/henry-ford-hospital-the-flying-bed-by-frida-kahlo/

du Plessis, Alicia. ““Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed)” by Frida Kahlo – A Look.” Art in Context, April 17, 2023. https://artincontext.org/henry-ford-hospital-the-flying-bed-by-frida-kahlo/.

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