Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

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Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:56 am

FRIDA KAHLO, THE BRUSH OF ANGUISH
by Martha Zamora
© 1990 by Martha Zamora
Abridged and Translated by Marilyn Sode Smith
Translation copyright © 1990 by Marilyn Sode Smith

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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Table of Contents

• Preface
• Murdered by Life
• The Beginning
o Part 1
o Part 2
o Part 3
• The Other Accident
o Part 1
o Part 2
o Part 3
o Part 4
• The Colors of Life
o Part 1
o Part 2
o Part 3
o Part 4
o Part 5
o Part 6
• Tree of Hope
o Part 1
o Part 2
o Part 3
• Chronology
• List of Illustrations
• Selected Bibliography
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:58 am

Preface

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I began my research for the Spanish-language edition of this book twenty-seven years after Frida Kahlo's death, when the recollections of her contemporaries were already worn smooth by repetition and selected by memory. The soul's capricious reporter, memory filters out what hurts, combines the incidents that remain, and then adapts them to the form it wants to remember. Memory composes its own truth.

Imagination slips into the retelling; contradictory though loving statements combine with the luminosity of released memories. All of this is useful in composing a portrait of the multifaceted Frida. It is inevitable that I present her differently from the heroine we have been given in previous works.

We frequently sculpt our important personalities in marble, polishing them to excess until, frightened by their purity, we draw away from them. I prefer to show Frida with the fragility and imperfection of a human being, one whose talent has left us an exceptional and thrilling body of work. But I am aware that every individual is a mystery. Frida is still so near that the events I narrate involve many people who are living, and further confounding my' investigations, each of them offers personal, often differing, interpretations of Kahlo's story.

Virginia Woolf said that a biography can be considered complete if it covers six or seven of the thousand personalities that a person might have. In my quest for the truth, I was even struggling against Frida herself, who seems to have wanted to invent her own biography, to plot her own myth and legend. To begin with, she invented a birth date and perhaps also a birthplace. She changed the names of her pictures, sending me in search of ones I had already located under other names. She recounted stories with so many changes drawn from her imagination that it complicated my discovery of the facts.

I began my work in total fascination before the perfect romantic heroine: one who suffered greatly, died young, and spoke directly through her art to our atavistic fears of sterility and death. Like many others, I am sure, I thought of her as a stoic woman who had suffered constantly in her life, as much from her problems of poor health as from the continual deception of a philandering husband. I believed Frida to be faithful and resigned, as she described herself in her writings. I viewed her as a marvelous artist who painted very little and lived a reclusive life, semi-invalid and continually sad, in her house in Coyoacan. What I found was very different from my preconceptions.

My profile turned out to be too simple and narrow to contain the vital force of Frida Kahlo. Frida's friends remember her as greatly enjoying life, happy, clever, and lively, always ready for fun. She had many and varied interests. She smoked too much and drank to excess. Bisexual during much of her life and a lesbian in her last years, Frida was unfaithful to her husband with the same frequency he evidently was to her. She traveled in Europe and the United States. She built for herself a personal world separate from that of her famous husband, and she produced many more paintings than I had at first imagined.

Frida was much more than an artist's model or the wife of a famous painter. With strength and patient dedication, she created her own work, distinct from the art movements of her time. She demonstrated that she could flourish beneath the shade of a tree as prominent as Diego.

All the physical and spiritual suffering Kahlo experienced is reflected in her art. Obsessed with her health and suffering, she created a pictorial oeuvre that is intense and emotive. It narrates with a desolate sensitivity what she wanted us to know of her life; her own pictures give shape to the Frida Kahlo myth. A marvelous masochist, Frida united the natural anguish of her fate with an enormous propensity for self-destruction. Placing herself constantly in extreme situations, she tested her limits with a vital intensity. Her paintings reveal her interior world at the same time that they force an awareness of her loneliness and misery. Standing alone, they have a value that requires no biographical corroboration.

In this book I have not eliminated the anecdotal, because it brings us much closer to the warm human being, to the woman with sparks flashing from her mischievous eyes. The anecdotes give a clear picture of the Frida that many people remember: a woman who was as sweet and tender as she was brave, tough, or haughty. Interested in everything, delighted by dirty words and phrases, she had a malicious, intelligent sense of humor that brought smiles to her lips, smiles that never appear in her self-portraits.

Frida must have scattered an enormous amount of love in her lifetime, for now, more than thirty-five years after her death, her image is still with us. At times she seemed to support and even cause terrible misfortunes in order to fall headlong into heartbreaking circumstances. All the while, she observed with detached fascination.

I regret not being able to tell all the adventures of my search for Frida, a journey that took me from sumptuous mansions to humble environs, to hospitals, tombs, and museums, looking for her people and her paintings. I noticed how rarely historical events alone had left a mark on the memory of the people I interviewed. Instead, it was the emotional response to an experience that remained deeply engraved in their treasured remembrances.

Now, with the image of her paintings in my mind, I call up the excitement of my one childhood glimpse of Frida walking along Avenida Juarez, elegant and colorful. I offer her this book, which lovingly presents some of what I have learned.

Martha Zamora
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 1:59 am

Murdered By Life

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The Dream, 1940

It was raining, one of those July days in Mexico when torrents fall. Frida had always liked the rain; it bathed and freshened her garden in Coyoacan and washed away the dust from the paving stones of the street. And rain kept reality out of focus, blurring life's edges. It helped the sad outline of her present life.

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A while ago she had asked to have her bed moved from the bedroom to the small entry hall that opened onto her studio. From there, through the doorway, she could see out to the garden, the stairway, the reflecting pool. In this section of the house, designed and built by her husband, Diego Rivera, the walls were made of volcanic stone from nearby Pedregal de San Angel. To her old family home, the Casa Azul, he had added a new studio for her, well-lighted and spacious; the entry hall where she was now; a bedroom; and downstairs, a small dining room. Clay pots embedded in the outside wall served as nests for the doves, and the exterior ceilings were adorned with designs by Diego in natural-colored stones.

Frida was burning with fever, weak and restless, as she had been almost constantly for the last few weeks. From her bed, she could hear the conversation of someone in the dining room below. Dr. Guillermo de Velasco y Polo had arrived.

"After examining her," Dr. Velasco y Polo has recounted, "I went down to the dining room and said to Diego, 'Frida's condition is very bad, she is feverish.' He nodded in agreement, but said nothing. I left, planning to return the next day."

Frida was being cared for by a practical nurse, Cornelia Mayet. "Two days before, Ruth Rivera came to visit accompanied by her friend, I think he was a bullfighter," related Mayet. "Suddenly, Frida let out a scream and told us she had a terrible pain, that she felt as though they were cutting off her leg again. I was just on the point of leaving because it was Sunday, but I stayed for the crisis. We called the doctors, and they told me to give her the medicines we had to make her sleep. When she quieted down and the other nurses had arrived, I left. She slept almost without interruption for two days on the doctors' instructions.

"The afternoon before she died, she woke up and was very lucid, very rested. She wanted to see Dieguito, she told me, because she had· something to tell him. She was thankful I was there, that I had not abandoned her, and she asked about her sister Cristina. I told the senor, who was downstairs eating with two other people, but he didn't come upstairs right away.

"When he came up to be with her, senora Frida began to give him advice about how he should do everything, but she warned him, 'If you want your life to be aimless as a kite, just blown about by the wind,' that's the way it would be. She told him that she was feeling very well now, that she was not in pain at all. Then the maestro told me that I could go and rest because I hadn't had any sleep for a long while, and that he would give her the pills she took for sleeping. Frida usually put a bunch in her mouth all at once. She was supposed to take only seven, so I told senor Diego that, and I counted the pills that were in the jar.

"As I left to sleep for a while in the adjoining bedroom, the senora was giving him a ring she had hidden away as a present for him next August, when they would have celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

"The next day, I counted the pills. Eleven were gone. About six o'clock in the morning, I heard the arrival of maestro Diego's assistant, Manuel. I left the bedroom and went toward Frida's bed. Her eyes were open, staring, and looking toward one side. Her right arm was hanging out of bed. I touched her and cried out. She was cold. I shouted for Manuel to come upstairs. Then he went to the studio to tell senor Rivera what had happened.

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"We picked her up to move her from the bed, and she was still flexible, cold but soft. On her back, there were signs of internal bleeding, as if from a lot of little veins. The doctors said that it was a pulmonary effusion. There was no rigor mortis. I had laid out other people before, and after two hours it was impossible to even move their arms, but not with her. Ruth Rivera, Pita Amor, and Lola Alvarez Bravo helped me dress her and do her hair. I remember that Lupe Rivera, Aurora Reyes, and her sister Cristina were there, too."

Diego came from his studio in San Angel, where he most often slept and worked in the last few years. Everyone who saw him said that he grew old immediately, that he was aged by the tenderness he felt welling up inside on seeing his "Chiquita" dead. He locked himself up in the bedroom, refusing to see anyone, while great crowds of friends and relatives arrived at the house. Afterward, he told his assistant on the San Francisco murals, Emmy Lou Packard, "I had no idea I was going to miss her so much."

On July 13,1954, the physical presence of Frida abandoned the Casa Azul in Coyoacan forever.
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:02 am

The Beginning, Part 1

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My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree), 1936

Rain in the morning in Coyoacan, for her birth as well as her death. Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderon came into the world on the sixth of July, 1907, maybe in the family home, the Casa Azul, as she always claimed, maybe down the street at her grandmother's house, a6 shown in the official registry of her birth.

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Frida in Coyoacan, 1927

An hour by streetcar from Mexico City, Coyoacan was surrounded by flat, open land, cornfields, and ranches. Frida absorbed the history and habits of every corner of the village; she explored its river, markets, churches, and plazas. She knew when the street markets and neighborhood fairs would be held, which street vendors sold the best quesadillas, and where to buy the most amusing toys. She spent hours strolling the streets with her friends, talking to merchants and shoeshine boys, and roaming the verdant parks and gardens.

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The Casa Azul, a rambling, blue structure in colonial style, was built by Guillermo Kahlo a few years before Frida's birth. Tall, shuttered windows opened to the street, and within, a series of interconnected rooms surrounded a large inner patio. Frida's part Indian mother, Matilde Calderon, a rigidly conventional woman, was a meticulous housekeeper and a devout Catholic. She frequently took communion, went to confession, and said the rosary in the late afternoon with relatives and friends. She chose not to raise her husband's two daughters by a previous marriage, sending them off to live in a convent orphanage. Her relationship with her own four daughters was strained as well; the oldest two married and left home at very young ages. By the time Frida was in her teens, her mother was in poor health and struggling with the family's finances. Although Matilde Calderon's letters prove otherwise, Frida once said with irony that her mother couldn't read or write, but she certainly could count money.

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Matilde Calderon de Kahlo and Guillermo Kahlo, c. 1932

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Cristina Kahlo, Isabel Campos, and Frida, 1919

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Portrait of My Father 1951

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Frida wearing a crucifix, center back; her sisters Matilde and Adriana with their spouses; her younger sister Cristina and a nephew; Matilde Calderon, center, 1928

Frida's father was a greater influence in her life. Shy, taciturn, withdrawn, Wilhelm Kahlo was a German Jew of Hungarian descent who had come to Mexico as a young man. He eventually found work in his father's trade, the jewelry business. When his first wife died giving birth to their second daughter, he turned for.help to Matilde, a co-worker. They married three months later. Guillermo, as he now called himself, took up his new father-in- law's career of photography and soon had his own studio.

Guillermo's always tender attachment to his "Liebe Frida" strengthened when she was stricken with polio at age six. Her right leg became noticeably thinner than the left, and frequent exercise was prescribed to speed her recuperation. Guillermo was the parent to help her, encouraging her to swim, ride a bicycle, and participate in sports. She often accompanied her father on outings with his camera, assisting him with the equipment, and she worked in his studio, learning to retouch, develop, and color his photographs.

Possibly because of her bout with polio, Frida entered elementary school later than her peers. About this time she developed two tendencies that would become lifelong habits: she began to claim to be younger than she was, and to hide her physical disfigurement. In childhood and later photographs, she always posed with her right leg concealed.

In 1922 Frida was ready to enter high school. A bright student, she qualified to attend Mexico City's National Preparatory School, by far the best school in Mexico at the time, with a faculty of prominent intellectuals from many disciplines. Frida was going out into the world, and a very different world it was, for Mexico as well as young Frida.

The Mexican Revolution, which began three years after Frida's birth, had inspired a dynamic new sense of nationalism throughout the country. Turning away from dictator Porfirio Dfaz and his elitist followers, and their love of all things European, Mexico looked proudly to its native roots and initiated a deliberate program of cultural reconstruction and educational development. The country's marvelous archaeological history, heretofore little known and undervalued, was being revealed in excavations of the ancient ruins at Mitla, Monte Alban, El Tajin, and Teotihuacan, and indigenous arts and crafts of all regions gained new attention.

Under the direction of the education minister; Jose Vasconcelos, literacy campaigns were initiated; women were integrated into the school system, and libraries and a state publishing house were set up to provide inexpensive books. Vasconcelos is also credited with stimulating the Mexican muralist movement. Believing that Mexican citizens would acquire a more profound awareness of their history by seeing it depicted on public walls, he turned over large areas of civic buildings to artists such as Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Diego Rivera, who soon became internationally famous as "Los Tres Grandes," the three greats, of the movement. One of the buildings whose courtyard walls they painted was the National Preparatory School, and there Diego and Frida met for the first time.

Women had only recently been admitted to the Prepa; Frida was one of only thirty-five females in a class of approximately two thousand. She soon established herself as a rebellious student full of pranks, audacity, and humor, with a lively imagination and an astounding mastery of foul language, which she picked up from conversations with bootblacks and street vendors in her neighborhood. Although actually older (at fifteen) and more mature than many of her schoolmates, she said she was three years younger, claiming 1910 as her birth year so she could declare herself a Frida wearing a man's suit, far left, with members of her family, c. 1924 "daughter of the revolution." This fiction exemplifies her habit of calculated fabrication for dramatic effect.

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Frida wearing a man's suit, far left, with members of her family, c. 1924
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:05 am

The Beginning, Part 2

Frida went to school dressed in a white middy blouse and a big tie, a navy blue pleated skirt, and a straw hat decorated with bows. Her sister Adriana fixed the bows for her, bur under precise instructions from Frida, who claimed her sister "had no sense of line or harmony." Always conscious of her appearance and her effect on others, Frida was daring enough on occasion to wear a man's suit or dramatic dresses of her own design.

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Portrait of Diego Rivera, 1937

Her school notebooks were filled with sketches, including one of herself in her straw hat, her dark hair cut in straight bangs, her signature black eyebrows growing together across her forehead. Bur although she studied composition and drawing, art was merely an amusing pastime. Frida was more attracted to the intellectual pursuits of a student group known as the Cachuchas, so named for the crocheted red caps they wore. An informal gang of nine, the Cachuchas had strong political concerns as well as interests in poetry, art, literature, history, and philosophy; all read at least one foreign language. Frida called the young men her carnales, blood brothers, and the girls were like sisters, her 'manas.

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A page from Frida's school notebook, c. 1922

At about this time Frida announced to friends, "You don't know what I would give to have a child by Diego Rivera." Her fellow students were stupefied, for despite their admiration for his talent as a painter, they saw him as a fat, untidy, bulging-eyed married man. Rivera was then working on his frescoes at the school, and Frida subjected him to her tricks. Once she soaped the school steps, hoping to make him slip and fall; other times she teased his wife, Lupe Marin, about other women in Diego's life.

Frida fell in love, however, with the charismatic leader of the Cachuchas, Alejandro Gomez Arias, an intelligent, attractive, well-mannered young man of a good family. "We were very good friends all our lives; we were more than sweethearts but never had wedding plans or anything like that, because we were still very young," Gomez Arias has said. Frida's ardent correspondence with Alejandro reveals her maturation from a young girl into a woman. Years later she said, "For me, Alex ignited love, the ambition to know, to know it all."

Frida's precocious behavior worried her parents. Societal restraints on women were severe, and even the concept of coeducation was upsetting to the families of proper young ladies. But Frida enjoyed flouting the rules, whether by a small transgression like wearing bobby socks, prohibited by the school dress code, or by a deviation as extreme as a sexual adventure with an older woman. This affair and other relationships not only scandalized her family but caused Frida to be ostracized by many of her schoolmates. Her passionate temperament had little respect for limitations, and Frida was not ashamed of her blossoming sexuality. She wrote to Gomez Arias: "I don't care. I like myself the way I am."

Guillermo Kahlo's business began to flounder while Frida was attending the Prepa, and as his financial situation worsened, he was forced to mortgage the Casa Azul. In order to help out, Frida enrolled in a business school in 1925 and learned to type. Her first jobs in a pharmacy and lumber yard office were unsuccessful, but eventually she was employed as an apprentice in an engraving studio.

***

That same year, on September 17, Frida and Alejandro spent the afternoon wandering among the colorful street stalls set up for Mexican National Day celebrations. On boarding a train to return to Coyoacan, Frida discovered that she had lost a little toy parasol Alejandro had just bought for her. They retraced their steps, and when it couldn't be found, they bought a balero, a cup-and-ball.

A bus happened by, a brightly painted new one with two long benches along the sides. Frida and Alejandro felt lucky to catch it. The driver, rushing to cross the busy city on the way out of town, boldly tried to pass in front of a turning streetcar. He didn't succeed: the heavy streetcar moved forward and collided with the bus, pushing relentlessly into its side and pressing against the benches where the passengers sat.

Gomez Arias still marvels at the elasticity of the vehicle, remembering that he felt his knees pressing against those of the person sitting across from him, just before the bus shattered to pieces. He regained consciousness underneath the streetcar, with the darkness of the metal chassis above him and a terrible fear that it would continue moving and mangle him. When he was able to sit up, he noticed that the front of his coat had somehow disappeared. He set out to find Frida.

At the moment of the accident, Frida was more concerned about the loss of her new toy, which had flown out of her hand,- than she was with the seriousness of the collision. Alejandro found her bathed in blood, without her clothes, virtually impaled on the rod of a metal handrail. A bag carried by a passenger had spilled gold powder all over, and Frida's bloodied body was sprinkled with it. Curious onlookers cried, "Help for the little ballerina!"

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Self-Portrait Wearing a Velvet Dress, 1926

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Frida, 1926

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The Bus, 1929

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Accident, 1926

An overall-clad worker, whom Alejandro thought he recognized as an employee of the Prepa, looked at Frida and said, "That has to be taken out of her." With no more ado he pulled the metal rod out of Frida's body to the terrible sound of breaking bones. Alejandro, horrified, carried her to a pool hall across the street, put her on a table, and covered her with the shreds of his ruined coat. They waited for an ambulance as Frida screamed in pain.

The wounded victims were taken to a nearby Red Cross hospital and divided into two groups: those who would receive immediate medical attention and those who, because of their grave condition, were considered beyond help. Frida was placed in the second group, and only after the shaken Alejandro pleaded with doctors, begging them to help, did they attend her.

A description of the wounds Frida suffered in the accident was compiled by her doctor in a clinical history years later: "Fracture of the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae; pelvic fractures; fracture of the right foot; dislocation of the left elbow; deep abdominal wound produced by a metal rod entering through the left hip and exiting through the genitals. Acute peritonitis; cystitis with drainage for several days." In other versions Frida added injuries, such as fractures of a cervical vertebra and two ribs, eleven fractures in the right leg, and dislocation of the left shoulder.

Frida always maintained that the metal rod pierced her uterus and emerged through her vagina. "[That's when] I lost my virginity," she said. Gomez Arias says that "the wound was much higher up and hit the pelvic bone; the invention of the point of exit was to hide other things." She would also identify the accident as the cause of her inability to bear children, but it was only one of her many explanations for that condition.

Frida told Alejandro, "In this hospital, death dances around my bed at night." But Frida's youth and characteristic vitality pulled her through. She was able to return home after a month, although she was almost completely immobilized by splints protecting her various fractures. Friends from school visited her frequently at first, but the long distance to her home in Coyoacan eventually discouraged regular visits; she began to feel out of touch. Although her health might have allowed it, Frida never resumed her studies.

While confined to bed, Frida began to paint, using a small lap easel her mother had ordered for her. Overhead, in the canopy of her bed, she positioned a mirror so she could use her reflection as a subject, an arrangement signaling the beginning of her focus on self-portraits. As she recovered and was up and around more, Frida also intermittently painted larger pictures, posing friends, relatives, and children as well as herself.

During her hospitalization and the following two years, Frida constantly wrote to Alejandro. Addressed to "Alex de mi vida" or "Mi adorado Alex," the letters are full of her colorful slang, sprinklings of English and Italian words, drawings and caricatures, poignant mention of her thwarted plans - "I who so many times dreamed of being a traveler and navigator! ... It is one of life's ironies" - and wry references to death: "At least the Bald One [skull] didn't get me."

Frida suffered grim periods of relapse, questionable medical treatments, a long series of confining plaster and metal corsets, and numerous operations. The backwardness of medical technology at that time in Mexico resulted in some grotesque therapy.

She wrote to Alejandro, "This Friday they put me in a plaster cast and since then it has been a real martyrdom; there is nothing to compare it with. I feel like I am suffocating, with a terrible pain in my lungs and in all my back; I can't even touch my leg, and I can hardly walk, much less sleep. Imagine: they had me hanging, just from my head, for two and a half hours, and afterwards I was propped up on my toes for another hour, while the cast was being dried with hot air. But, even so, when I got home it was still damp.... I'll have this martyrdom for three or four months and if this doesn't make me well, I sincerely want to die, because I can't take it any more. It's not only the physical suffering but also that I don't have the least distraction, I don't get out of this room, I can't do anything, I can't walk, I'm completely without hope now, and above all you're not here."

Fighting to recover physically, Frida was also struggling to keep Alejandro. But he was back at school, busy with other activities and interests; furthermore, he was being sent to Europe on a pleasure and study trip that would keep him away from Frida from March until November of 1927. Her letters continued, detailing each advance or regression of her mental and physical health.

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Portrait of Alicia Galant, 1927
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:08 am

The Beginning, Part 3

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Portrait of Miguel N. Lira, 1927

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Alejandro Gomez Arias, c. 1924

In June 1927 she wrote, "Monday, they're going to change my cast for the third time, this time to keep me immobilized without being able to walk for two or three months, until my spine knits together perfectly, and I don't know if afterwards they'll have to operate on me.... Every day I'm skinnier, and when you come back, you're really going to be in for a shock when you see how horrible I am with this dreadful apparatus. Afterward, I'm going to be a thousand times worse, so you can just imagine: after having been lying down for a month (the way you left me) and another month with two different devices, and now another two months flat on my back put in a coating of plaster, then six months again with the lighter apparatus so I can walk.... Is that enough to drive a person crazy, or not?"

On September 9, 1927, she noted, "On the seventeenth it will be two years since our tragedy. For sure I certainly will remember it terribly well, although it's stupid, isn't it? I haven't painted anything new (and won't), until you come back.... I've suffered terribly, and I'm almost neurotic, and I've let myself become such an ignoramus, I'm totally demoralized." And eight days later: "I'm still very sick and almost without any hope. As always, nobody believes it. Today is the seventeenth of September, the worst day of all because I'm alone."

Among the vague diagnoses and suggested treatments mentioned in Frida's letters were thermocauterization, an operation to graft a piece of bone from her leg, the discovery of a lesion on her sciatic nerve, and constant changes of immobilizing corsets in different materials. Undoubtedly her recovery and moods were affected by the household gloom dictated by her parents' poor health and the family's precarious economic situation. The Casa Azul was still mortgaged, and at one point all the fine furnishings had to be auctioned off. Her mother's daily bad humor coupled with her father's misanthropic behavior caused her to describe her home as "one of the saddest I have ever seen."

A Prepa friend who remained close to Frida during her recuperation was German de Campo. A man of ardent political convictions, he was a major influence on the ideologically leftist road she took then and maintained all her life. De Campo introduced Frida to the weekly salons of painters, writers, photographers, and intellectuals held by Tina Modotti, the strikingly beautiful Italian who had come to Mexico from the United States with photographer Edward Weston. Modotti, an outstanding photographer herself and Weston's protege, worked for the muralists and was not only a model for Diego Rivera but probably the reason he separated at that time from his wife, Lupe Marin.

Frida admired Modotti above all for her political militancy and the practical way she applied the strength of her convictions to her daily actions. Modotti apparently sponsored Frida's entry into the Communist party. Her hair now cut very short and styled close to her head, Frida no longer wore the white blouse of her student days, but was more apt to be seen in the distinctive red shirt of the party. (A Rivera mural, Distributing Arms, in Mexico City's Ministry of Public Education, portrays both Modotti and a red-shirtclad Frida.)

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Portrait of a Girl, 1929

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Portrait of Eva Frederick, 1931

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Portrait of Mrs. Jean Wight, 1931

One account suggests that Frida renewed her acquaintance with Diego Rivera at a Modotti soiree where he impressed her with a show of flamboyant behavior, using a pistol to shoot a phonograph. Frida told another story in an interview with the Mexican journalist Bambi:

"I took four little pictures to Diego who was painting up on the scaffolds at the Ministry of Public Education. Without hesitating a moment I said to him, 'Diego, come down,' and so, since he is so humble, so agreeable, he came down. 'Look, I didn't come to flirt with you or anything, even though you are a womanizer, I came to show you my painting. If it interests you, tell me so, if it doesn't interest you, tell me that too, so I can get to work on something else to help out my parents.' He told me, 'Look, I'm very much interested in your painting, especially this self-portrait which is the most original. The other three seem to me to be influenced by what you've seen. Go on home, paint a picture, and next Sunday, I'll come to see it and tell you.' So I did, and he said, 'You have talent.'"

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Frida and Diego at a demonstration of the Syndicate of Technical Workers. Painters, and Sculptors, 1929

Diego told biographer Gladys March a similar story, adding that when he learned that the young woman who had sought his opinion of her paintings was Frida Kahlo, he immediately remembered the little girl who long ago had taunted his wife Lupe Marin in the halls of the Prepa and had been such a troublesome youngster to the school authorities.

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Frida depicted in Rivera's mural Distributing Arms (detail), Ministry of Public Education, 1928

True to his word, Rivera came to call on that Sunday, and many others. Frida became "the most important thing in my life," he said, and on August 21, 1929, they were married in the historic town hall of Coyoacan.
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:11 am

The Other Accident, Part 1

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Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931

"When I was seventeen, Diego began to fall in love with me," Frida once explained to a journalist (subtracting ,three years from her age). "My father didn't like him because 'he' was a Communist and because they said he looked like a fat, fat, fat Breughel. They said it was like an elephant marrying a dove, Nevertheless, I arranged everything in the Coyoacan town hall for us to be married on the twenty-first of August, 1929." To a friend, Frida said, "I have suffered two serious accidents in my life, one in which a streetcar ran over me.... The other accident is Diego."

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It was Diego Rivera's first legal marriage, although there had been many women in his life and two other long-term relationships. The Russian artist Angelina Beloff lived with him as his common-law wife for ten years in Paris during the 1910s; she bore him a son, who died at an early age. Another lover, Marievna Vorobiev-Stebelska, also had a child by him, a daughter, whom he did not acknowledge as his own for many years. In 1922 in a church ceremony, Diego married the beautiful Mexican Lupe Marin, with whom he had two daughters. According to Mexican law, which required a civil ceremony, this union was not legal, but it was considered a serious commitment by the couple. However, a divorce was not necessary when Diego decided to marry Frida.

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"I borrowed petticoats, a blouse, and a rebozo from the maid, fixed the special apparatus on my foot so it wouldn't be noticeable, and we were married. Nobody went to the wedding, only my father, who said to Diego, 'Now, look, my daughter is a sick person and all her life she's going to be sick. She's intelligent but not pretty. Think it over awhile if you like, and if you still wish to marry her, marry her, I give you my permission.'" According to Diego, Frida's father added he rightfully had to warn him that she was un demonio, a devil.

"Then they gave us a big party in Roberto Montenegro's house. Diego got horrendously drunk on tequila, waved his pistol about, broke some man's little finger, and destroyed some other things. Afterward, we got mad at each other; I left crying and went home. A few days went by and Diego came to get me and took me to his house at 104 Reforma."

Tina Modotti wrote to Edward Weston in September 1929: "Had I not told you Diego had gotten married? I intended to. A lovely nineteen-year-old girl, of German father and Mexican mother; a painter herself." Modotti added in Spanish, "A ver que sale!" (Let's see how it works out!)

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Frida, c. 1930

Many others were struck by the incongruity of the petite, young Frida marrying the overweight, middle-aged artist. When her school friends heard about her marriage, they were shocked and surprised, considering it una cosa mons/roosa, a hideous thing. But Frida was the last unmarried daughter of ill parents in sad financial straits. Her decision had pragmatic as well as romantic repercussions; in fact, Diego paid off the mortgage on her parents' home.

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Certainly the striking pair's marriage, reported widely in the international press, offered Frida an opportunity to move not only in Mexican but leading European and American artistic and intellectual circles; she relished the contacts she made and the attention she received ~s the wife of a famous artist. But perhaps ultimately she was attracted by an attribute described by each of Diego's previous companions, his dynamism, by which he vitalized everything and everyone who came near him. He was possessed of a great and genuine warmth along with a capacity for charmingly tender gestures.

Frida began her married life in Diego's house in the first block of Mexico City's Avenida Reforma. In an interview she said, "For furniture we had a narrow bed, a dining set that Frances Toor (editor of Mexican Folkways) gave us with a long black table, and a little yellow kitchen table that my mother gave us. We arranged it out of the way in one corner for the collection of archaeological pieces. We couldn't have a child, and I cried inconsolably, but I distracted myself fixing meals, cleaning house, painting at times, and going along with Diego each day to the scaffolds. He really liked me to come along bringing his lunch in a basket covered with flowers."

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Self-Portrait with Necklace, 1933

Hospitably, if unpredictably, Diego's ex-wife Lupe Marin took the young newlywed under her wing, going with her to buy pots and pans and kitchen things, then teaching her to prepare Diego's favorite dishes. Frida painted Lupe's portrait as a gift in thanks for the cooking lessons.

Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to Cuernavaca, where Diego had been commissioned by U.S. Ambassador Dwight W. Morrow to paint a mural in the historic colonial palace of Hernan Cortes. While Diego tackled long work days, Frida passed the time visiting neighboring villages with a friend, Luis Cardoza y Aragon, who was living with them. He remembers with affection, "Frida was what she always was, a marvelous woman. There was a spark in her that was growing and beginning to light up her canvases, to light up her life and, in turn, the lives of others."

In the fall of 1930, Frida for the first time traveled out of Mexico. She and Diego went to San Francisco, where he had commissions to paint two murals. While he worked on the scaffolds at the Pacific Stock Exchange Luncheon Club and the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), she explored the streets of Chinatown and the North Beach area near their studio living quarters. She visited with the wives of his assistants and other artists they knew. Together they often played "Exquisite Cadavers," drawing by turns on a piece of paper folded in equal sections, each player inventing a part of the human body without knowing what had been drawn by the preceding person. When the paper was unfolded, the hilarious result was revealed, to which Frida always added the most erotic and audacious details.

In San Francisco Frida and Diego attracted the attention not only of artist friends but of wealthy' art patrons and prominent business figures, beginning the torrent of adulation, praise, and later, controversy that would accompany Diego throughout his U.S. visit. They made a dramatic couple: the dark and slender beauty in long Mexican dress with her elaborate jewelry, the genial, towering fat man in rumpled suit and broad-brimmed hat. The press loved them, and newspaper coverage was extensive wherever they went.

Meanwhile, Frida was sketching and making pictures of herself and of friends. She painted a double portrait of herself and Diego for Albert Bender, an influential businessman and philanthropist who had intervened with the State Department to get Diego an entry visa in spite of his Communist ties; he also helped them Albert Kahn, Frida, and Diego at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1932 financially by purchasing Diego's work and by encouraging friends to do so. In one corner of the double portrait, using a. motif from Mexican folk art, Frida painted on a ribbon held in the beak of a dove, "Here you see us, I, Frida Kahlo, with my adored husband. I painted these portraits in the beautiful city of San Francisco, California, for our friend, Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in the month of April in the year 1931."

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Albert Kahn, Frida, and Diego at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1932

During the six months they spent in San Francisco, Frida was briefly hospitalized for a problem with her foot. Her physician, Dr. Leo Eloesser, became a lifelong friend and adviser. She painted Portrait of Dr. Leo Eloesser for him in thanks and perhaps as compensation.

After a short trip to Mexico in the summer of 1931, the Riveras returned to the United States, this time to New York for a major exhibition of Diego's work at the Museum of Modern Art, only the second one-person show held there. Once again the center of attention, Diego and Frida were feted by New York's business and art elite, including John D. and Abby Rockefeller, who became patrons. Frida at first took a dislike to the crowded city, and Diego had little time for her as he prepared for the exhibition's opening. But as the months went by, Frida began to meet and enjoy new friends with whom she could explore Manhattan.

Diego's career next took them, in the spring of 1932, to Michigan where the Detroit Arts Commission had invited him to create an extensive series of murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Diego again immersed himself in his work, putting in long, arduous days with his assistants. It was a lonely time for Frida. Her stay in Detroit was also marked by a serious medical problem. On the fourth of July, in the midst of severe hemorrhaging, she was rushed to Henry Ford Hospital.

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Portrait of Dr. Leo Eloesser, 1931
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:15 am

The Other Accident, Part 2

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Henry Ford Hospital, 1932

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My Birth, 1932

In the retelling, and in a painting, Frida claimed to have lost a baby. Her extreme isolation in a strange land, coupled with her apparently conflicted emotions about having a child, is movingly recalled in Henry Ford Hospital (1932). She expressed the dramatic event in this small painting with strongly contrasted colors in a simple but effective style that disregards scale or proportion.

Later that year Frida made a brief trip back to Mexico on another sad occasion, the death of her mother, after which she painted My Birth (1932). She was creating many works now, experimenting with techniques, painting on tin, making lithographs, even trying her hand at fresco. More noteworthy was a change in content: her work was beginning to emphasize terror, suffering, wounds, and pain.

Homesick for her family and friends, Frida yearned to return permanently to Mexico. But when Diego completed the Detroit murals, they moved back to New York where he was installing a large mural at Rockefeller Center. When work was nearing completion, Diego was discharged from the project because he refused Nelson Rockefeller's request that he remove a portrait of Lenin from the composition. The clash generated world-wide publicity, to Diego's great pleasure, but the mural was eventually destroyed.

Diego and Frida stayed in New York a few months longer, during which time he did a number of other murals. Frida painted the ironic My Dress Hangs There (New York) (1933), in which a Tehuantepec costume hangs on a clothesline strung between two classic columns. They support American icons, a white enamel toilet and a gilt athletic trophy. No life force vitalizes the intensely colored canvas: Frida herself is no longer in New York.

Diego finally and reluctantly agreed to return to Mexico in late 1933. In a few months they were settled in San Angel in the novel twin houses designed for them by their artist friend Juan O'Gorman. Built in a functional style, the larger building was Diego's studio; the smaller one, living space and Frida's studio. One house was blue, the other bright pink, with a light blue stairway and wrought ironwork painted red. A bridge at the level of the rooftop terrace connected the two structures, and encircling both houses like a fence, a line of gray-green cactus contrasted beautifully with the brilliant colors of the painted buildings.

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Frida and Diego with one of their pet monkeys, n.d.

Diego told journalists that the houses had been designed to "guarantee domestic tranquility," but the couple found little peace. Diego's displeasure at being forced to return to Mexico was visible and audible for a long time. Something worse marred the domestic scene, an event that perhaps caused Frida the greatest agony of her life. During 1934 Diego began a love affair with her younger sister, Cristina.

Frida was aware that Diego spread his affections around, and she excused him, saying, "How would I be able to love someone who wasn't attractive to other women?" She developed a defense: at the first pang of jealousy or sense of abandonment, she would pretend to others that she and Diego had an ideal union of unbroken devotion, despite his numerous casual and short-lived adventures with the admiring women who flocked around him. But the affair with Cristina, Frida's dearest family member and confidante, was too much. Frida took an apartment in Mexico City for a time, trying in vain to find an independent life.

But for all the strength of her personality, Frida felt insecure without Diego to praise her talents, cleverness, and beauty. When he withdrew from her, feelings of abandonment overwhelmed her. In July 1935, she fled to New York. There she resolved to accept her husband's wayward behavior; as she wrote Diego, she "loved him more than her own skin." According to her husband, she returned to him in Mexico "with slightly diminished pride, but not with diminished love.". They established a pact that allowed frequent escapades for both, but with the mutual understanding that the affairs were something apart from their own special and intimate relationship.

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Self-Portrait on the Border between Mexico and the United States, 1932

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My Dress Hangs There (New York), 1933

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Portrait of Cristina, My Sister, 1928

Eventually, Frida was reconciled with Cristina and seemed to pardon her as well as Diego. What remained to remind her of her immense grief was a picture she painted in 1935, A Few Small Nips. It was based on a story of a man who murdered his companion by stabbing her repeatedly; when confronted with the horror of what he had done, he excused himself by explaining, "But I only gave her a few small nips." In a preliminary sketch for the painting, Frida drew a dove holding a ribbon in its beak bearing a line from a popular song, "My sweetie doesn't love me anymore." In the finished painting-a gruesome, blood-soaked scene in a room with pale pink walls - a delicate white dove and a black swallow lyrically suspend a ribbon that says "Unos cuantos piquetitos!" (A few small nips!). Years later, Frida extended the spilled blood depicted in the canvas to the picture's frame.

After her husband's involvement with her sister, Frida herself engaged in a number of love affairs of varying duration and intensity. Some friends believed these dalliances were merely in retaliation for Diego's transgressions; others felt they were expressions of her own sexual amorality. Whichever they were, she plunged into each liaison with a headlong passion, which typically extinguished itself rapidly. These fiery, fleeting relationships included the American sculptor Isamu Noguchi, who came to Mexico to do a mural; at least two Spanish refugees whom the Riveras helped during their first years of exile in Mexico; Heinz Berggruen, whom she met in San Francisco; and the painter Ignacio Aguirre. There were also a number of trysts with women.

One affair of great consequence to Frida was with Nickolas Muray, a well-known Hungarian photographer who made some of the most beautiful photographs of Frida. Although Frida was jealous and hurt when Muray's interest turned to another woman, a letter from Muray makes it clear that Frida never abandoned her attachment to Diego: "I knew New York only filled the bill as a temporary substitute, and I hope you found your haven intact on your return. Of the three of us there was only two of you. I always felt that. Your tears told me that when you heard his voice. The one of me is eternally grateful for the Happiness that the half of you so generously gave."

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A Few Small Nips, 1935

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My Parrots and I, c. 1941
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:18 am

The Other Accident, Part 3

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Frida and Nickolas Muray, c. 1939

Even though Frida's liaisons allowed her to reaffirm her power of attraction and to counteract the pain of her husband's escapades, her primary and exclusive love for Diego never abated. Once the flood of romantic passion had ebbed, she wanted to return to the firm ground of her true love, to Diego.

Perhaps Frida's most fascinating and unlikely affair was with Leon Trotsky. The Russian leader had been exiled from the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in 1929, and after a few years in Turkey, France, and Norway, he found himself with an expired Turkish passport, no government wanting to admit him, and in urgent need of political asylum. Friends asked Rivera to intervene with the Mexican government. Diego was not only successful in convincing President Lazaro Cardenas to grant asylum, but he offered Frida's Casa Azul as a permanent residence for the Trotskys.

In January 1937 Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, arrived by steamship at the Mexican port of Tampico. The couple settled in at the house in Coyoacan, which had been modified for their safety into a virtual fortress with organized shifts of guards, barricades, covered windows, and alarm systems.

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Trotsky and his wife at the Casa Azul, 1938

Trotsky was a vigorous man, fifty-seven years old, tall, dashing, and full of energy. According to Jean van Heijenoort, Trotsky's secretary, Frida and Trotsky's interest in one another was soon apparent to many. Frida behaved coquettishly, frequently using the word "love" when speaking to him. She communicated easily with him in English, which had the advantage of excluding his wife, who didn't understand the language. Trotsky slipped letters into books he loaned to Frida, and they held clandestine meetings in Cristina Kahlo's nearby house.

By June Natalia Sedova took notice of the situation, and tension began to build. Trotsky and Natalia decided to separate for a while, and in July he moved to the hacienda San Juan Hueyapan, some distance from the capital, accompanied by a bodyguard and one of Diego's drivers. A few days later, Frida arrived to visit him, and at this meeting they most likely decided to end their affair. Within a few weeks Trotsky was writing to his wife of Frida, "She is nothing to me."

While still on friendly terms with Trotsky, Frida painted a self-portrait for him. It shows her standing between two curtains, holding a piece of paper that says, "To Trotsky with great affection, I dedicate this painting November 7, 1937. Frida Kahlo, in San Angel, Mexico." The date was both Trotsky's birthday and the anniversary of the October Bolshevik Revolution according to the Gregorian calendar.

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Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (Between the Curtains), 1937

These years, in which Frida met a stimulating parade of international personalities and withstood the emotional somersaults of her sexual relationships, were among the most productive of her artistic career. Besides the self-portrait she dedicated to Trotsky, she painted The Deceased Dimas (1937), My Nurse and I (1937) (one of Frida's favorites), What the Water Gave Me (1938), Self-Portrait (Fulang Chang and I) (1937), and other works. She exhibited My Grandparents, My Parents, and I (Family Tree) (1936) in a group show at the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Department of Social Action. She was busy preparing for her first solo exhibition, to be held in November 1938 at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York, where she traveled toward the end of the year. Shortly before, she had been thrilled by the first sale of her pictures to the actor and collector Edward G. Robinson, who was visiting Mexico. Until then she had been content to give away her paintings, but now an American connoisseur had paid for her work. Frida arrived in New York in a confident mood. Her exhibition was well received by public and critics, and she sold a fair number of pictures.

At the close of the gallery show, Frida considered going to Paris where Andre Breton, the Surrealist writer, was organizing an exhibition called Mexique, which would feature pre-Hispanic figures, folk art, ex-votos, seventeen of Frida's pictures, and photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo. She was unsure of being away from Diego, but he wrote to her in December 1938: "Don't be foolish. I don't want you to lose the opportunity to go to Paris because of me.... If you really want to please me, you can be sure that nothing would make me happier than knowing you were enjoying yourself. And you, my dearest little sweetheart, you deserve it all.... I don't blame them for liking Frida, because I, too, like you more than anything."

She traveled to Paris, and as always, her exotic clothing and array of unusual jewelry turned heads wherever she went. Frida liked to say that her unconventional appearance created such a sensation that it inspired magazine cover designs and haute couture gowns.

In Paris Frida renewed her friendship with Andre Breton and his wife. The Bretons had visited Mexico for a lecture tour in 1938, and became acquainted with the Riveras then. Breton saw Frida's art as Surrealist and claimed her as one of his group, saying of her work, "The promises of fantasy are filled with greater splendor by reality itself!" She also met other famous painters of the period- Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Wolfgang Paalen, Wassily Kandinsky, and others. They took her to the restaurants where they held their salons, boosting her ego with the warm tribute paid to her painting and her beauty. She enjoyed particular attentions from Picasso, who taught her songs, praised her paintings, and presented her with a gift of earrings in the form of enormous hands. She wore them frequently and painted them, in somewhat modified form, in two self-portraits (1940 and 1946).

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Portrait of Alberto Misrachi, 1937

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My Nurse and I, 1937

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The Deceased Dimas, 1937

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The Suicide of Dorothy Hale, 1938-39

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Fruits of the Earth, 1938

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Flower of Life, 1938
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:35 am

The Other Accident, Part 4

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Cactus Fruit, 1937

Another accolade came Frida's way in Paris. The Louvre purchased a self-portrait, The Frame (c. 1938), from the Mexique exhibition. Diego spoke proudly of this, saying that none of the three great Mexican muralists, Orozco, Siqueiros, and himself, had been so honored.

Frida arrived home in April 1939, feeling more sure of herself as an artist than ever before. Her pictures were selling and had merited praise from the most severe critics; she was not the least bit disturbed by critical comments from those horrified by her sanguinary and shocking themes. Frida looked forward to being truly independent and supporting herself by painting. She was feeling equally secure about her attractiveness as a mature woman, one who captivated prominent industrialists and distinguished political figures as well as famous artists and writers.

But Frida's new-found security collapsed soon after her return, when she was confronted with Diego's request for a divorce. Manuel Gonzalez Ramirez, one of Frida's Cachucha friends from the Prepa, acted as her lawyer in preparing the papers. "I arranged the dissolution of the bonds, and I knew very well how sad she felt about the separation," he declared. "She was lost in a limbo bordering on despair."

A single reason for the divorce is hard to find. Perhaps Diego found out about her affair with Trotsky. Perhaps Frida expressed displeasure at Diego's dalliance with American film star Paulette Goddard, who was staying at the San Angel Inn right across from their house. In a letter to a friend, Frida blamed Diego's ex-wife, Lupe Marin, for causing the divorce. Rivera's statement to journalists explained it as "purely a matter of legal convenience in the style of modern times. We did it for the purpose of bettering Frida's legal position. There are no sentimental, artistic, or economic reasons."

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Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940

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Self-Portrait (The Frame), c. 1938

Frida was devastated, and she became deeply depressed. Suddenly living alone, she was compelled to produce enough work to support herself Paradoxically, the mental anguish and turmoil of her personal predicament resulted in some of her finest painting. The only large-scale canvases she ever made were done at this time: The Two Fridas (1939), a double self- ortrait painted a few months after her separation and in the worst moments of her emotional crisis, and The Wounded Table (1940), a self-portrait in which Frida is embraced by a bizarre, oversized Judas figure, while a macabre skeleton twirls a lock of her hair.

Both paintings were exhibited in January 1940 in Mexico City at the important International Surrealism Exhibition in Ines Amor's Gallery of Mexican Art. The Two Fridas was next exhibited in New York in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art. Not until seven years later was The Two Fridas sold, to the Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico. The Wounded Table, last exhibited in Warsaw in 1955, reportedly was sent to the Soviet Union as a gift from the Mexican Communist party; its whereabouts are now unknown.

Another fine self-portrait is Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940). It was inspired by Frida's defiant act of cutting her long hair, which Diego adored. The lyrics and notes of a popular song are displayed across the top: "Look, if I used to love you, it was because of your hair, now that you're pelona, I don't love you anymore." Pelona, a slang word of the sort Frida liked to use, means bald or shorn.

Frida's generally poor physical condition was exacerbated by extremely heavy drinking, and after the divorce her health deteriorated rapidly. She continued to suffer from the circulatory problems that had plagued her since 1934, when five joints on the toes of her right foot had been removed. General fatigue and back pain were always with her.

In May 1940, a pro-Stalinist group involving the artist Siqueiros made an unsuccessful attack on Trotsky's life. A second attempt, on August 20, succeeded. Trotsky was fatally hit on the head with a climbing ax by a Soviet agent, Ramon Mercader. Since Frida had known Mercader in Paris as well as Mexico, she was among the many suspected accomplices. She and her sister Cristina were questioned for hours by the police.

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The Two Fridas, 1939

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Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940

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The Earth Itself (Two Nudes in the Jungle), 1939

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Self-Portrait Dedicated to Sigmund Firestone, 1940

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Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938

The stress of the police interrogation only intensified the gravity of Frida's already weakened physical condition. Diego was in San Francisco, painting a mural. When he heard how ill Frida was, he suggested that she consult with Dr. Eloesser, who had followed her medical history for the last decade. In September Frida flew to San Francisco. Eloesser prescribed absolute rest, a special nutritious diet, electro and calcium therapies, and abstinence from alcohol. This treatment, combined with Diego's tender sympathy, improved her health tremendously.

Eloesser was instrumental in more than the momentary improvement of Frida's physical well-being. He urged the couple to reconcile, and on Diego's fifty-fourth birthday, December 8, 1940, they were married again. Frida went home to Mexico two weeks later, followed in a few months by Diego. They were ready to renew their life as partners.

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But it was not the same Frida going back into the marriage. Despite her continued enjoyment of public attention, she was no longer an impulsive, flirtatious, and charming adolescent. The reality of her thirty-three years must have confronted her. Frida rejoined Diego with her eyes open, accepting the complexities of her own personality as well as his. She began to craft her own ambiance, a personal world apart from the one she shared with her husband. Frida was so completely convinced of the necessity for this change that shortly after her return from San Francisco she moved back to Coyoacan to the Casa Azul, determined to build an independent life for herself. There she created the rest of her pictorial autobiography, never going back to stay in the studio next door to her husband's. Diego could live with her or not, sleep in Coyoacan or at his studio in San Angel. Frida would not move out of her refuge again.
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