Frida Kahlo MMoCA Collects

Mexican, 1907-1954

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Frida Kahlo, 1930. Photograph by Edward Weston. © Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
Frida Kahlo, Still Life: Pitahayas, oil on aluminum, 1938.

Frida Kahlo was one of the most important painters of the Mexican modernist movement, which thrived in the years between World War I and World War II. Her life was changed when at the age of eighteen her spine, foot, and pelvis were crushed in a bus accident. These insults to her body, which resulted in chronic pain for the rest of her life, were added to the suffering she had endured as a childhood victim of polio. During her convalescence, she turned to painting. In a series of probing self-portraits, often taking the form of still lifes as well as likenesses of herself, she explored issues of personal identity and human mortality. Unlike her husband, Diego Rivera, she was never drawn to the socio-political issues that informed the art of the Mexican muralists and printmakers. Her work was highly personal and played upon native traditions of Magic Realism and formats such as votive paintings and retablos. In 1938, André Breton–the poet-founder of Surrealism–visited Kahlo in Mexico City and declared her a Surrealist. He arranged for her work to be shown in New York and Paris to great success. Although marginalized during the period of modern art, which was dominated by male artists, Kahlo's achievements were recognized in the 1970s as a significant contribution to the history of modern art and an exemplar of a newly recognized category of feminist art that arose out of social reforms of the period.

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Suggested Readings

Ankori, Gannit. Imaging Her Selves: Frida Kahlo's Poetics of Identity and Fragmentation. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.

Drucker, Malka. Frida Kahlo. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

Herrara, Hayden. Frida Kahlo: The Paintings. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Teaching Pages

Frida Kahlo, Still Life: Pitahayas, 1938, oil on aluminum, 10 x 14 inches. Collection of Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Bequest of Rudolph and Louise Langer. 69.1.51 © 2005 Banco de México, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums Trust. Av. Cinco de Mayo No. 2, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc 06059, México, D. F.

Frida Kahlo, 1930. Photograph by Edward Weston. © Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.