Mexico’s Queen of Colour, the famously mono-browed Frida Kahlo, entered my world years ago when we acquired a coffee table book about her long-time relationship with the camera. Frida was the daughter of a German-born photographer, and Mexican mother, and well accustomed to both sides of the lens. But she was best known for her sumptuously polychromatic paintings. So when I visited San Francisco’s wonderful Museum of Modern Art which boasted a number of Frida originals – and some of her husband, equally famous artist Diego Rivera – I was able to experience first-hand her fearless affiliation with the palette. Travelling on to New York I was just as excited by that MOMA’s Kahlo and Rivera pieces. Mexico City was immediately added to the “must-visit” list.
Self-portraits and a photographic portrait.
Frida’s Portrait of a Girl.
Items from Frida’s stunning and eclectic wardrobe.
Frida suffered a lifetime of pain.
Frida Kahlo’s art reflects her life and her emotional response to the hardships she faced: a lifetime of health problems after contracting polio at six and being seriously injured in a bus accident at 18; a volatile relationship with Rivera which included a divorce and remarriage; and an incapacity to have children. The suffering is reflected in her numerous uncompromising and confronting autobiographical paintings, and her many self-portraits embracing her striking mono-brow and dark-haired upper lip. Frida and Diego were both heavily involved in the politics of their time which coincided with the Mexican Revolution and the era of Marxism. They belonged to the Communist Party and had famous Communist friends, including Trotsky who lived in Mexico City until his assassination on the orders of Stalin.
A Rivera Cubism piece at the museum.
Rivera was best known for his huge educative murals, this at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
The best place to experience this dynamic Mexican artist’s work is at the Frida Kahlo Museum the Blue House, or La Casa Azul, named for its stunning cobalt blue hue, and located in Coyoacan borough. It was her family home from birth to death, and also where she lived for a number of years with Diego Rivera. The museum’s two floors contain various bedrooms, an expansive kitchen, a dining room and studio space. Natural stone mosaics inspired by the murals of their friend, the Irish-Mexican architect Juan O’Gorman, decorate the entrance hall. The museum houses many of Frida and Rivera’s works, as well as folk art, and many personal items and memorabilia. Rivera was a leading art teacher and muralist with many expansive on view across the country, especially in Mexico City.
A section of the museum features stunning pieces from Frida’s eclectic and flamboyant wardrobe and also a display of her prostheses and medical aids. Her distinctive clothing style is an amalgam of the colourful folk costumes of her mother’s Oaxacan heritage, and the European folk style reflecting her Grman heritage, combined with long skirts to cover the legs damaged by polio and the accident. Outside, the courtyard garden is a rainbow of cobalt, ochre, yellow and green, perfectly exemplifying Kahlo’s and Mexico’s communication with matters chromatic.
The expansive Blue House kitchen, and colourful garden.
Photograph of Trotsky, Frida and others.