Thursday, February 11

A Book About Frida Kahlo and Her Art

Today’s Image
A Painting Symbolic of Kahlo's Mexican Heritage
Acrylic on Canvas
Copyright 2008

I enjoy reading about artists as I’ve mentioned occasionally. I just finished reading the book, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera by Isabel Alcantara and Sandra Egnolff; the publisher is Prestel, and an icon on the cover says Pegasus Library. It was a gift along with a biography on Diego Rivera, both of which I received last year. I read the Diego Rivera book first and blogged about it late last year, so I wanted to follow up with a blog on the Kahlo book.

Although the title of the book is Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, it seemed to me to be primarily about Kahlo and her life and artwork. Rivera was, of course, a large part of her life, and some of his work and murals are included. Had Kahlo not married Rivera, her life story would still make for an interesting read.

The book is relatively concise and well written with smooth transitions. I like the descriptive subtitles that lead you seamlessly along the timeline of her life. Although Kahlo’s life was full of challenges and emotion, the book remains objectively matter-of-fact so the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions (thank you).

What’s even better is that the authors included colorful images of her paintings, which I assume are also the most notable and well-known ones. Her art was such an expression of what was happening in her life that, without them, her story would not be nearly as powerful. The inclusion of personal photographs of Kahlo and family and friends was also a bonus.

If you don’t know much, or anything, about Kahlo and/or Rivera, you should read more about them because they are one of art’s most interesting couples. To put it mildly, they were not your typical next doors-y type neighbors.

Kahlo was an individual from her early school days, and, I would say, remained so throughout her life. The first and biggest challenge that affected the rest of her life was a bus accident in 1926 in which she nearly died. Remaining painful problems with her feet, legs, and spine caused her to undergo surgeries the rest of her life and probably contributed to her early death at age 47; that, and Rivera’s numerous and infamous extra-marital infidelities. Without going into more detail, Kahlo, herself, had an affair with Leon Trotsky, the famous Communist, no less.

But to focus on her art, the book reports that Kahlo described it as painting what she felt. Many, many of the paintings are self-portraits with herself as the main character interacting with various themes and circumstances. For example, her miscarriages are portrayed in several unique paintings.

Kahlo did not describe her style as Surrealism, although, to me, it comes the closest if you had to pinpoint one.

Most interesting is how I describe Frida Kahlo and her artwork. You are free to draw your own conclusions.


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