Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were the greatest artists to emerge from Mexico in the twentieth century. The husband and wife, devoted to supporting each other’s work, had distinctly different painting styles; but both were intent on depicting their Mexican heritage. While Diego painted what he saw around him, Frida painted what she saw within herself. Together they encouraged each other to continue to paint prolifically.
Frida Kahlo is the one of the most important Mexican painters. Her art is introspective, emanates pain and is very personal. More than one-third of her works are self-portraits. Frida was called a Surrealist by Andre Breton, but she said, “Some critics have tried to classify me as a Surrealist; but I do not consider myself to be a Surrealist…Really I do not know whether my paintings are Surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of my self…I detest Surrealism.” Frida painted in different styles, though a fine example of Surrealism can be seen in her self-portrait, “Roots,” in which her torso is open, giving birth to a vine that appears to feed the parched Mexican earth on which she lies, with her own blood. Frida’s reality was passion, pride and pain. One can easily see her passion, pride and pain by following her life through her art.
The epitome of beauty, strength, talent, and desire, Frida’s life was filled with agonizing pain both physically and emotionally. Frida suffered from polio at the age of six which deformed her right leg and foot. At eighteen Frida was studying pre-med at university when she was involved in a bus crash that changed her life forever. She was impaled through the abdomen by an iron bar, destroying her pelvic bones, fracturing her spine in three places, her leg and ribs. Frida underwent over thirty surgeries in attempts to repair her damaged body.
Frida had an incredible allegría despite her physical suffering. She was passionately in love with her husband, her country and her life. Emotionally crushed by Diego’s philandering and her numerous miscarriages, Frida lived life to the fullest that her frail body would allow. Considered one of the most beautiful and desirable women of her time, she had numerous love affairs with movie stars, artists, and politicians. Her lovers included the chanteuse Josephine Baker, art critic Andre Breton, Russian revolutionary Leo Trotsky, artist Isamu Noguchi and others. Ultimately, Frida adored Diego and desperately wanted to have his baby. Her broken body could not carry a child and this was the source of Frida’s deepest pain.
Diego Rivera is one of the most exciting figures in Mexican history because of his fabulous frescos that launched the Mexican Mural Renaissance, his communist politics, his philandering and his often outrageous behavior. Diego’s early years as a painter were influenced by Cubism, Post-Impressionism and Realism. In Italy he discovered his medium, frescoes, which are mural paintings done on fresh plaster. Diego’s art celebrates Mexican heritage from Mesoamerica through the Mexican Revolution and Mexico’s nationalist sentiments. His art aroused world interest in the folk art of Mexico.
Despite being morbidly obese, over six feet tall/1.82 meters and weighing well over 300 pounds/136 kilos, with the visage of a toad, Diego’s charismatic personality drew beautiful women to him in droves. Incapable of being faithful, Diego’s affairs were numerous and included artist Angelina Beloff, artist Marevna Vorobieff, the iconic movie star Paulette Goddard, tennis star Helen Willis Moody and many more. Frida was Diego’s most enduring love. Though tumultuous, their love lasted twenty five years until Frida’s death in 1954 at the age of forty-seven. Diego lived three more years dying at age sixty-eight in 1957.
Diego and Frida thrived on their passion for each other. They were both passionate about the other’s art. Though they both had countless love affairs, they truly were soul mates. On the night before she died, Frida gave Diego a gift in honor of their twenty-fifth anniversary, seventeen days early. “Why so early?” he asked, but he knew. Diego said, “July 13, 1954 was the most tragic day of my life. I had lost my beloved Frida forever. Too late, now I realized that the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.”
In Mexico City, you should visit the House – Studio of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera one of the most important architectural and cultural landmarks of Mexico City. It was the home of Frida and Diego and houses both their studios. Another important attraction in Mexico City is Museo Dolores Olmedo, largely curated by Diego himself, which possesses the largest permanent collection of works by Frida and Diego.