The artist Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907–1954) is today an iconic figure, known as much for her path-breaking artwork as for her striking appearance. Kahlo began to paint while recovering from a near-fatal bus accident in 1925, which left her with lasting medical complications, disabilities, and chronic pain. Kahlo famously married the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957) in 1929. Their union was unconventional and tumultuous—they divorced in 1939 and remarried thirteen months later in San Francisco. Throughout, they shared a deep devotion to art, to Mexico and its multifaceted cultures, and to revolutionary politics.
Many of Kahlo’s approximately 200 paintings explore her complex identities and engage themes of disability, gender, and politics. Her paintings elude definition. Sometimes associated with Surrealism, Kahlo herself resisted that categorization, stating that her paintings were “the frankest expression of [her]self.”
Upon her death in 1954, at the instruction of Rivera many of her personal possessions were locked away in La Casa Azul—the home where she was born, lived most of her life, and died. Today, La Casa Azul—located in Coyoacán, Mexico City—houses the Museo Frida Kahlo, where in 2004 the remarkable trove of items that had been hidden away fifty years earlier came to light. Drawings, documents, dresses, accessories, and Kahlo’s colorful self-fashioned outfits from this trove—along with select paintings by Kahlo and items from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco—are the heart of this exhibition.