Iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo immortalized her own image in 55 self-portraits comprising almost one-third of her overall works. Encompassing both native folk art and Surrealism, vibrant colour dominated her canvasses in cobalt blue, leaf green, bright yellow, and magenta. More than 200 personal belongings, displayed alongside key paintings illustrate the narrative of her life at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum’s Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up.
Kahlo’s traditional indigenous clothing including shawls, long flowing skirts, rectangular “huipil“ embroidered blouses, pre-Columbian or chunky silver jewellery, along with thousands of photographs—some snapped by legendary photographer Man Ray—were rediscovered in 2004 and make up the bulk of the exhibit. Although her life-long home La Casa Azul in Mexico City was turned into a public museum after her death, her artist husband Diego Rivera kept these items locked away.
Kahlo’s painterly palette of makeup favoured crimson blush and lipsticks, nail lacquers in red and orange hues, and dark pencils to highlight her famous eyebrows. Her personal appearance was as cleverly creative as her artistry.
While there was beauty in her life, there was also the tragedy of a body riddled with endless pain, requiring medical support corsets, back braces, and even a prosthetic leg with leather boot. Kahlo’s paintings often depicted strong corporeal images of herself.
An insightful look at the endlessly fascinating woman behind the art, as told through possessions used in her daily life, this collection has never before been seen outside of Mexico.
Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up runs June 16 to November 14 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Sponsored by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.
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