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Creative Relationships Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo’s Letter to Georgia O’Keeffe

1939, Probably Mexico City, Mexico --- Artist Frida Kahlo, in a Tehuna costume, with her pet hawk, 1939. --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS
1939, Probably Mexico City, Mexico — Artist Frida Kahlo, in a Tehuna costume, with her pet hawk, 1939. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

“There is something uncommonly heartening about bearing witness to the virtuous cycle of support and mutual appreciation between two creative luminaries…

“One of the most touching such exchanges was between two of the greatest artists and most remarkable women the world has ever known — Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe. Both were prolific letter writers — Kahlo in her passionate illustrated love letters to Diego Rivera, and O’Keeffe in her equally passionate love letters to Alfred Stieglitz, her lifelong correspondence with her best friend, and her emboldening missives to Sherwood Anderson. But what Kahlo wrote to O’Keeffe in 1933 was a wholly different kind of epistolary and human magic.

“Even though the Mexican painter had herself been dealt an unfair hand — including a miscarriage just a few months earlier, her mother’s recent death, and more than thirty operations over the course of her life after a serious traffic accident during adolescence sent an iron rod through her stomach and uterus — Kahlo didn’t hesitate to reach out with a beam of compassion during O’Keeffe’s moment of crisis.” -OpenCulture.com

THE LETTER:

 

 

TRANSCRIBED:

Georgia,

Was wonderful to hear your voice again. Every day since I called you and many times before months ago I wanted to write you a letter. I wrote you many, but every one seemed more stupid and empty and I torn them up. I can’t write in English all that I would like to tell, especially to you. I am sending this one because I promised it to you. I felt terrible when Sybil Brown told me that you were sick but I still don’t know what is the matter with you. Please Georgia dear if you can’t write, ask Stieglitz to do it for you and let me know how are you feeling will you ? I’ll be in Detroit two more weeks. I would like to tell you every thing that happened to me since the last time we saw each other, but most of them are sad and you mustn’t know sad things now. After all I shouldn’t complain because I have been happy in many ways though. Diego is good to me, and you can’t imagine how happy he has been working on the frescoes here. I have been painting a little too and that helped. I thought of you a lot and never forget your wonderful hands and the color of your eyes. I will see you soon. I am sure that in New York I will be much happier. If you still in the hospital when I come back I will bring you flowers, but it is so difficult to find the ones I would like for you. I would be so happy if you could write me even two words. I like you very much Georgia.

Frida

 

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo:The Artist’s Wardrobe locked up for 50 years, Revealed

“I recommend her to you [Frida Kahlo], not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and as profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.” –Diego Rivera

“Frida by Ishiuchi Miyako (2013) is a photographic record of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and belongings. Following Kahlo’s death in 1954 her husband Diego Rivera began placing her personal effects into the bathroom of their Mexico City house, “The Blue House”, which later became the Museo Frida Kahlo. Rivera gave instructions that this room should remain sealed until fifteen years after his death and it in fact remained unopened until 2004 when the museum decided to organise and catalogue the contents. Ishiuchi Miyako was invited to photograph these artefacts, over 300 unseen relics of Kahlo’s life.

“As a project Frida is both a departure from Ishiuchi Miyako’s normal practice and a natural conceptual progression. While moving away from the Japanese subject matter of her earlier series, the work reveals Ishiuchi Miyako’s continued obsession with the traces we leave behind both as individuals and as a society. In her earlier series, Mother’s (2000-2005) and ひろしま/ Hiroshima (2007-), she photographed previously worn garments, evoking the lives and memories of the people who wore them as well as the social climate of post-war Japan. In documenting Frida, Ishiuchi Miyako again respectfully sifts through the ephemera left behind by an individual and in doing so makes intimate revelations about one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists. Frida Kahlo (1907 -1954) was an invalid throughout her life. Having contracted polio as a child she was then involved in a near fatal bus accident at the age of 18, which resulted in numerous surgical interventions. In the aftermath of her accident Khalo constructed her iconic wardrobe to camouflage her physical ailments. Ishiuchi Miyako’s images document the traditional Tehuana dresses that both concealed the damage to her lower body and acted as a feminist salute to the matriarchal society from which they are derived. * Through her photographs Ishiuchi came to recognise the parallel between these traditional garments and the kimonos of her own country, an “ephipany” that is evident in the images themselves. Throughout the photographs there is a particular awareness, a tenderness that is inherent to a woman looking through another woman’s intimate possessions. As she painstakingly catalogues the chic of Kahlo’s sunglasses, the intimacy of her darned tights and the corsets that were to be the armature by which she survived.” -MICHAEL HOPPEN GALLERY

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Frida Kahlo

The Style of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo in front of Picasso

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” -Frida Kahlo

“Kahlo produced only about 200 paintings—primarily still lifes and portraits of herself, family and friends. She also kept an illustrated journal and did dozens of drawings. With techniques learned from both her husband and her father, a professional architectural photographer, she created haunting, sensual and stunningly original paintings that fused elements of surrealism, fantasy and folklore into powerful narratives. In contrast to the 20th-century trend toward abstract art, her work was uncompromisingly figurative. Although she received occasional commissions for portraits, she sold relatively few paintings during her lifetime. Today her works fetch astronomical prices at auction. In 2000, a 1929 self-portrait sold for more than $5 million.” -Smithsonian

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: Self Portrait

Frida Kahlo: Self Portrait

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”  -Frida Kahlo

“When you look at Kahlo’s art, there is no getting away from the woman herself. Even if you have never engaged with her work, never stopped in a gallery to peer at one of her small canvases, you will be familiar with her face – its slight monobrow and moustache, its smooth black hair and full mouth.

“With the familiarity of her look comes also the fame of her personality and her story. Ever since Hayden Herrera’s influential biography was published in 1983 – and even more since the Hollywood biopic, Frida, starring Salma Hayek, was released in 2002 – Kahlo’s highly coloured and passionate life has been as eagerly consumed, or even more eagerly consumed, than her highly coloured and passionate art. Kahlo’s life seems to be a kind of template for how a female bohemian should behave, with her vivid clothes, rebellious social behaviour, affairs with men (including Trotsky) and women, and her tempestuous marriage to fellow artist and communist Diego Rivera.

“Given this adherence to an ideal artistic temperament and biography, it’s hardly surprising that Kahlo occupies such a comfortable niche in modern celebrity. Her most famous collector is Madonna; fashion designers claim her as their “muse”; the US postal service has put her on a stamp in order to show their “commitment to diversity”; Volvo has used her image in advertisements. And the National Portrait Gallery is currently showing not her work, but photographs of Kahlo herself.” -The Guadian

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo: Unity Mural

Frida Kahlo in Front of the Unfinished Unity Panel, 1933. Photographed by Lucienne Bloch.
Frida Kahlo in Front of the Unfinished Unity Panel, 1933. Photographed by Lucienne Bloch.

“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” -Frida Kahlo

“Diego Rivera is internationally acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s most important muralists and influential artists. Rivera’s style is a unique synthesis of European painting, socialist ideals, and the cultural riches of pre-Columbian indigenous Mexico.
He gave the people of the San Francisco Bay Area an extraordinary work of Pan American art and an inspiring vision of Pan-American Unity. His grand, 22′ high and 74′ long, mural, is entitled “Unión de la Expresión Artistica del Norte y Sur de este Continente” (The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent). It is a sweeping synthesis of the art, religion, history, politics, and technology of the Americas that is as timely now as it was sixty years ago.

“Rivera painted this masterpiece, now commonly called Pan American Unity, in 1940 as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. He was commissioned by the organizers of the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition to paint a large-scale fresco during the run of the fair. It was the centerpiece of Art in Action, an innovative exhibit where fairgoers could watch artists create their work.

“The mural includes three self-portraits and a portrait on his wife, artist Frida Kahlo. It is a unique combination of an artist in his prime and a critical moment in world history brought together on a monumental scale. It is arguably the most important work of art created in the Bay Area.
After the fair closed, the mural was intended to be placed in the new library of San Francisco Junior College (now City College of San Francisco). This library was part of a grand architectural plan developed by Timothy Pflueger, a prominent local architect, one of the organizers of the fair, and Rivera’s patron and friend.” -CCSF.edu

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Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo & Her Lust for Life

Frida Kahlo - Chavela Vargas

“Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.” -Frida Kahlo

A Lust for Life

“Frida, the person and her art, defy easy definition. Rather, they lend themselves to ambiguous description. Often volatile and obsessive, Frida was alternately hopeful and despairing. She loved dancing and crowds and flirtation and seduction – and was often miserably lonely, begging friends and lovers to visit, not to “forget” her. She had a ferocious and often black sense of humor, as well as a sharp command of wit and metaphor. She took great pride in keeping a home for Diego and loved fussing over him, cooking for him and bathing him. She delighted in pets – mischievous spider monkeys and dogs – and adored children, who she treated as equals. She loved nonsense, gossip and dirty jokes. She abhorred pretension. She treated servants like family and students like esteemed colleagues. Frida Kahlo embodied alegría, – a lust for life. She valued honesty, especially to self.

“She once wrote to a former lover (who allegedly had jilted her because of her physical infirmities), “you deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.

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“When Frida Kahlo died at the age of 47 on July 13, 1954, she left paintings, each of which corresponds to her evolving persona, as well as a collection of effusive letters to lovers and friends, and colorfully candid journal entries. All are irrefutable evidence that her life was nothing less than a quest to be honest to herself – 1910 birthday and all.” -PBS

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Frida Kahlo

Frida’s Artistic Legacy

Frida Kahlo Smoking: photo by Nickolas Muray

“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” ―Frida Kahlo

(photo by Nickolas Muray)

“Artist Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoán, Mexico City, Mexico. Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Kahlo later became politically active and married fellow communist artist Diego Rivera in 1929. She exhibited her paintings in Paris and Mexico before her death in 1954.”

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Artistic Legacy:

“Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. Her beloved Blue House was opened as a museum in 1958. The feminist movement of the 1970s led to renewed interest in her life and work, as Kahlo was viewed by many as an icon of female creativity. In 1983, Hayden Herrera’s book on the artist, A Biography of Frida Kahlo, also helped to stir up interest this great artist. More recently, her life was the subject of a 2002 film entitled Frida, starring Salma Hayek as the artist and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera. Directed by Julie Taymor, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won for Best Makeup and Original Score.” -Biography

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Creative Relationships Frida Kahlo

Frida & Diego

Frida & Diego- photo by Martin Munkácsi)“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” -Frida Kahlo

(photo by Martin Munkácsi)

 

Tumultuous Marriage

“Kahlo reconnected with Rivera in 1928. He encouraged her artwork, and the two began a relationship. The couple married the next year. During their early years together, Kahlo often followed Rivera based on where the commissions that Rivera received were. In 1930, they lived in San Francisco, California, where Kahlo showed her painting Frieda and Diego Rivera at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. They then went to New York City for Rivera’s show at the Museum of Modern Art and later moved to Detroit for Rivera’s commission with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

“In 1932, Kahlo incorporated more graphic and surrealistic elements in her work. In her painting, Henry Ford Hospital (1932), a naked Kahlo appears on a hospital bed with several items — a fetus, a snail, a flower, a pelvis and others — floating around her connected to her by red, veinlike strings. As with her earlier self-portraits, the work was deeply personal, telling the story of her second miscarriage.

“Kahlo and Rivera’s time in New York City in 1933 was surrounded by controversy. Commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller, Rivera created a mural entitled Man at the Crossroads in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller halted the work on the project after Rivera included a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the mural, which was later painted over. Months after this incident, the couple returned to Mexico and went to live in San Angel, Mexico.

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“Never a traditional union, Kahlo and Rivera kept separate, but adjoining homes and studios in San Angel. She was saddened by his many infidelities, including an affair with her sister Cristina. In response to this familial betrayal, Kahlo cut off most of her trademark long dark hair. Desperately wanting to have a child, she again experienced heartbreak when she miscarried in 1934.

“She and Rivera went through periods of separation, but they joined together to help exiled Soviet communist Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia in 1937. The Trotskys came to stay with them at the Blue House for a time in 1937 as Trotsky had received asylum in Mexico. Once a rival of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Trotsky feared that he would be assassinated by his old nemesis. Kahlo and Trotsky reportedly had a brief affair during this time.” –Biography

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