Biography (Magill Book Reviews)
Since Hayden Herrera published her 1983 biography of Frida Kahlo, the artist, hitherto little known outside her native Mexico, has become internationally recognized. In 1984 the government of Mexico declared her work to be national patrimony because of its “unquestioned aesthetic value and...unanimous recognition within the national artistic community.” In 1990 the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries,” gave museum visitors in New York, San Antonio, and Los Angeles an opportunity to view her work. Now Herrera provides readers with that opportunity in FRIDA KAHLO: THE PAINTINGS.
Frida Kahlo started painting in 1926 while she was recuperating from an accident when a trolley collided with the bus in which she was riding; she was impaled by a steel rod and nearly given up for dead. The injuries left her a partial invalid for the rest of her life and contributed to the gradual spinal deformation that caused her death in 1954 at the age of forty-seven.
The accident transformed Frida Kahlo from a mischievous and passionate adolescent studying for a medical career into an artist trying to re-create a wholeness within herself by painting self-portraits that chronicle her perceptions “in terms of things done to her body.” Herrera’s book is a bountiful catalog of Kahlo’s paintings, drawings, and notebooks, accompanied by more than one hundred photographs and a biographical analysis. It is an...
(The entire section is 366 words.)
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IntroductionIn 1925, when she was still at school, she suffered appalling injuries in a traffic accident, leaving her a permanent semi-invalid, often in severe pain. During her convalescence she began painting portraits of herself and others. She remained her own favourite model and her art was usually directly autobiographical: ‘I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.’ In 1928 she married Mexico's most famous artist, Diego Rivera, who was twice her age and twice her size. Their relationship was often strained, but it lasted to her death, through various separations, divorce and remarriage (1939–40), and infidelities on both sides (one of her lovers was Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated while living in Mexico City in 1940). Kahlo was mainly self-taught as a painter. She was influenced by Rivera, but more by Mexican folk art, and her work has a colourful, almost naive vigour, tinged with Surrealist fantasy. Her paintings of her own physical and psychic pain are narcissistic and nightmarish, but also—like her personality—fiery and flamboyant. They were widely shown in Mexico and she had successful exhibitions in Paris and New York in 1938 and 1939 respectively, but during her lifetime she was overshadowed by her husband. Since her death, however, her fame has grown and she has become something of a feminist heroine, admired for her refusal to let great physical suffering crush her spirit or interfere with her art and her left-wing political activities. -- Frida Kahlo Biography
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