Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:39 am

The Colors of Life, Part 1

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The Casa Azul's garden and the addition built by Rivera, c. 1952

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The elegant furnishings of the Casa Azul- its lace curtains, Persian carpets, French-style furniture, and porcelain figurines - had long since been lost or sold to settle debts. When Frida returned in 1941 to make the family home her residence, she set about arranging its decor to suit her unique personality.

Inside the house, Frida had the wide planks of the floor painted a strong yellow. On the walls and in cupboards she arranged her distinctive collection of art objects and curios. There were pre-Columbian figurines, pieces of folk art, and an array of toys and dolls. Frida loved to receive presents and often shamelessly asked friends to bring her toys to add to her treasured childhood collection. At the other extreme, she displayed on a bookshelf a jar containing a fetus in formaldehyde, which she presented to visitors as her own still-born child.

Larger-than-life Judas figures invaded patios and rooms. These gaudily painted papier-mache effigies, traditional folk art objects made to be burned in the street during Lent, at times wound up dressed in Frida's shawls and petticoats. A skeleton hung next to her bed and was the object of an affectionate greeting every morning. Frida, grasping its hand, would say, "Hola, 'mana!" (Hi there, sis!) to start the day. An even larger skeleton, with strings of fireworks crisscrossed over his ribs, was atop the canopy of Frida's bed, reclining on two pillows. "Your lover," Diego used to call the insouciant symbol of death.

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Diego and Frida with a Judas figure

The year before, Diego had added to the Casa Azul a wing made of volcanic rock and decorated with stone mosaics, much as he would later build Anahuacalli, his anthropological museum. The largest of the new rooms was a studio for Frida; Diego also constructed a small pyramid in the garden. There parakeets, macaws, hens, and sparrows lived among the plants and flowers that Frida tended. Her pet animals roamed about freely: the little deer Granizo; the parrot Bonito; the favorite dog senor Xolotl, a hairless Mexican ixquintle; the cherished spider monkeys Fulang Chang and Caimito de Guayabal; and her eloquently named eagle, Gertrudis Caca Blanca (Gertrude White Shit). The Judas figures and exotic plants and animals, her constant companions, appear in many of Frida's paintings.

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Frida's studio, c. 1949

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Pyramid constructed by Diego in the garden at the Casa Azul

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Self-Portrait (Fulang Chang and I), 1937

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Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940

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

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:42 am

The Colors of Life, Part 2

Upstairs, Frida's bed was often her world for long periods of time, and around it she gathered an array of necessary or attractive items. Overhead, she could see her reflected image in the canopy's mirror. Lying in bed, she could paint with the ingenious wooden easel that her mother had ordered built for her long ago. Her headboard was completely covered with photographs of people dear to her -- her sisters and father, her family grouped around her when she was a child, her niece and nephew, her close friend Pita Amor. Alongside ,hung portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. Nearby were her collections of toys, pre-Hispanic pieces, and mounted butterflies. Paintbrushes, pencils, her diary, and assorted bright-hued objects completed the decoration. The room was redolent of medicines and perfume.

Frida was often heard to say, "I look like a lot of people and a few things," as if everything that made up her personal appearance was a matter of chance. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Dressing each day was an almost ceremonial affair during which she would try innumerable combinations of blouses and skirts. Her clothes were always immaculately clean and freshly ironed; she was meticulous about the appearance of her pleated petticoats, pure white and starched. She wore native Mexican costumes long after her sophisticated friends had given up this nationalistic gesture, in part for the long skirts that hid her thin leg and orthopedic shoe.

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Frida's favorite costume was from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and she twice painted herself wearing it, in Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego in My Thoughts) (1943) and Self-Portrait (1948). She confided to a journalist, however, that "there was a time long ago when I dressed like a boy, with short hair, pants, boots, and a leather vest. But when I went to see Diego, I put on a Tehuana outfit. I have never been in Tehuantepec ... but of all the Mexican costumes, it is the one I like the most."

Frida selected her jewelry each day with equal care, especially the rings she wore on the fingers of both hands. She meticulously applied her makeup and painted her fingernails, sometimes purple, green, or orange, according to what best harmonized with the day's outfit. She used to say she dressed de chango, like a monkey, for fun, in a silly and playful way. Bertram Wolfe declared that "her appearance would have seemed outlandish were it not for the artistry with which she designed and adorned herself."

Although she never approached the size of her portly mother and stout older sisters, nor even the plumpness of her younger sister, Cristina, Frida worried about maintaining her slender figure. Only a little over five feet two inches tall, she seemed taller because of the heightening effect of her long skirts, accentuated even more by her elegantly long neck and by her upswept hairdo with bows and flowers arranged on top of her head. Her olive skin was covered with a light fuzz; her upper lip had a pronounced moustache, which she made obvious in her self-portraits. The dark, heavy eyebrows that grew together across her forehead she turned into a trademark, representing them in her paintings as a bird, a swallow in flight.

When she was finally finished dressing, she looked "like a princess, like an empress," according to the descriptions most often used by her contemporaries. Scrupulously clean and heavily perfumed, 'she was as resplendent as a rainbow, ready for one more day.

Frequently she was preparing for sessions with prominent photographers from the United States and Mexico. Since childhood a subject of her father's photographs, she had a true love of the camera and its results. She posed for Edward Weston, Hector Garda, Imogen Cunningham, Manuel and Lola Alvarez Bravo, Nickolas Muray, Guillermo Zamora, Juan Guzman, and Bernice Kolko, and an endless stream of photographer-fans who came to admire and record on film her spectacular presence.

Many photographs show Frida, a heavy smoker, holding a lit cigarette. She rarely smiled when in front of a camera; the few photographs that catch her laughing reveal blackened teeth, often self-consciously hidden behind her hand.

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Self-Portrait, 1941

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Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot, 1942

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Self-Portrait, 1948

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Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego in My Thoughts), 1943

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Frida, the Casa Azul, 1941
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:46 am

The Colors of Life, Part 3

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Self-Portrait Dedicated to Marte R. Gomez, 1946

For all the grim things in her life, Frida loved gaiety. With her low-pitched, throaty laughter, she enjoyed jokes and anecdotes, wordplay, and scrambling expressions from many languages. Like Diego a bit of a liar if it made a better story and suited her purpose, she was passionate and witty, with a ribald sense of humor; Bertram Wolfe said she used "the richest vocabulary of obscenities I have ever known one of her sex to possess." She frequently made fun of herself, as when she announced it was time for her to go shave. She ridiculed conventionality and everything she thought pompous or foolish, calling stuck-up people grandes cacas, big shits.

Along with her own clever phrases, Frida incorporated into her correspondence and speech expressions adopted from others. Jose Frias, a poet friend of both Riveras, once wryly explained to Frida that "I drink to drown my sorrows but the damn things have learned to swim." Later she used the phrase in one of her letters to refer to her own problems with alcohol.

Frida could apply nicknames so apt that it was impossible for her hapless targets ever to lose them. Diego's driver was called "General Confusion" because everything seemed to go wrong when he was involved, and the houseboy was known as "Manuel the Restless" because of his passive lethargy.

***

In 1941 Frida's health again deteriorated. Fatigued and losing weight, depressed over her father's recent death, she suffered from asthenia, a loss of strength, and experienced extreme pain, this time in her feet. Doctors were treating her with hormones for irregular menstrual periods and trying to cure a recurrent fungus infection on the fingers of her right hand. Tests, X-rays, and new kinds of corsets to support her back became a routine part of life, with complete bed rest and carefully balanced diets prescribed every so often to get her back on her feet.

In spite of her poor health, the five years following Frida and Diego's second wedding were the most serene of their married life, a time when they seemed to come to terms with one another. Finding pleasure in simply being together and sharing their daily lives, they treated each other with the same outward show of affection as before the divorce-he was her "Sapo-rana," her toad-frog, she his "Chiquita." They seemed satisfied with their decision to continue their marriage.

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Thinking of Death, 1943

According to one version by Diego, however, Frida had made two stipulations governing their reconciliation: she would pay half of the household expenses with earnings from her work as a painter, and they would not resume sexual relations, since for her the mere memory of Diego's infidelities prevented it.

Their friends say neither of these conditions, if they ever existed, was put into practice. Frida contributed the profits from the sale of her paintings, but it was Diego who always paid the majority of their expenses, until her illness not only nullified her contribution but greatly increased the necessary expenditures. Besides the servants for the house, there were nurses, expensive medicines, and drugs, not to mention doctor bills and long periods of hospitalization.

That sexual relations were not a part of Diego and Frida's new marriage is discounted by those close to the pair. Rena Lazo, a young Guatemalan painter who was assisting Diego with a mural, remembers the couple's relationship as warm and normal, full of innumerable expressions of mutual affection. One morning Lazo stopped by the Casa Azul to join Diego for the trip downtown. She asked Chucho, the houseboy, if he knew what time they would leave. His reply was memorable: "I think it will be a while because the Maestro just went to bed with the Senora."

Frida's love for Diego was still the major focus of her life. One of her diary entries gives some sense of her total devotion:

Diego ... beginning
Diego ... builder
Diego ... my child
Diego ... my sweetheart
Diego ... painter
Diego ... my lover
Diego ... my husband
Diego ... my friend
Diego ... my mother
Diego ... my father
Diego ... my son
Diego ... I
Diego ... universe
Diversity in unity
Why do I call him my Diego?
He never was and he never will be mine.
He belongs to himself.


But for all her declared, written, and painted love for Diego, Frida was not above manipulation. Certainly her ailments were genuine, but she dramatized her disabilities to secure his attention, especially when he was involved with another woman. Many of her operations were elective and occurred when she felt threatened by a new love in Diego's life.

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Diego and I, 1949

Contrary to widespread belief, Frida was not obsessed by frustrated maternity, although it was an idea she encouraged. Two harsh and original pictures painted in 1932, Henry Ford Hospital and My Birth, support that impression, and viewers are inclined to extend this attitude to all of her work. In fact, Frida's correspondence reveals that she had abortions for unwanted pregnancies before and after the medical crisis in Detroit, and she was perfectly aware that Diego did not want another child. Aside from the risk that a pregnancy posed to her own health, Frida feared possible congenital health problems; she was concerned that her father's epilepsy might be hereditary and that she herself might transmit syphilis, a disease for which she several times asked to be tested, but which only one doctor ever thought she had.

Frida's concept of herself was not that of la senora respetable, a traditional married woman, and certainly not a motherly one. When her special art students, the group called the Fridos, once affectionately brought her a bouquet for Mother's Day, she was not amused; although she was old enough to be their parent, she preferred to consider herself their friend.

What is obvious is that Frida channeled all her maternal feelings into her care of Diego. She spoke to him as if he were a baby, even bathing him and giving him floating toys to play with in the tub. (Perhaps this was to encourage habits of personal cleanliness for which Diego had little inclination.) She found or had made the enormous clothes he required, including underpants of coarse cotton in a shocking pink color which she sometimes embroidered. Each day, to the studio or the scaffolding where he was working, she sent Diego hot meals in a basket coquettishly covered with an embroidered cloth and accompanied by love notes. Some days hers was not the only lunch that arrived; other women would also send viands, causing Diego to say amiably to his assistants, "Come, there's enough for all."

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The Love Embrace, the Earth (Mexico), Me, Diego, and Mr. Xolotl, 1949

Always ideologically in tune with Diego, Frida became involved in his left-wing political activities to promote revolutionary struggles and movements for world peace and political freedom. She spent hours typing Diego's speeches and statements, letters of support for individuals and causes they considered worthy, and petitions for European war refugee assistance. The signatures of both artists were continually requested for statements of protest or political support. Diego at this time was on the outs with the Communist party; he was no longer a member, and he did not agree with some of its positions in the 1940s. His years of contact with Trotsky, his general lack of party discipline, and clashes with others made him an unreliable member, so that as secretary in 1929 he was obliged to read himself out of the Mexican party he had helped to found. Not until the end of his life was he readmitted, and then only after he confessed his previous mistaken beliefs.

Frida remained firm in her socialist convictions and party membership. Interestingly, she almost never showed up at the offices or the meetings of the Mexican Communist party, claiming ill health, although in these same years she attended concerts, frequented popular dance halls, went to movie theaters, and regularly visited her friends. Her Communist friend Concha Michel has conjectured that Frida abandoned active participation in the party because of the secondary roles women played as typists, assistants, or messengers, tasks that would not have interested her.

Although in contact almost daily, by telephone and notes, discussing their health, their friends, and activities, Diego actually spent limited time with Frida. Most of his day was devoted to his painting, but increasingly his time and energy went into planning and constructing a building to house his collection of pre-Hispanic art, the Anahuacalli, to be built on the volcanic lava beds of San Pablo Tepetlapa, near Coyoacan. Frida had purchased a parcel of land, intending it for the house of a Spanish refugee family she had befriended. Diego continued to acquire surrounding parcels until he had a site that suited him. Once construction began, most of the money he earned was used to pay workers and to buy materials.

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Love note from Frida to Diego, before 1940

Kahlo visited the site frequently, and she kept careful account for Diego of all expenditures. She not only controlled the progress of the museum's construction, but supervised all of their financial affairs, sorted Diego's papers, answered. his correspondence, and even kept a file neatly marked "Letters from Diego's Women." Frida took pleasure in being a good housekeeper and personally supervised the preparation of the daily meals, especially those for her husband. Even when finances were tight, she managed to employ a large staff, at times three or four servants plus their relatives, and Diego had a chauffeur.

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Anahuacalli, 1984
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 2:50 am

The Colors of Life, Part 4

Frida had her own activities as well. At Diego's suggestion, she started teaching in 1943 at the Ministry of Public Education's experimental new School of Painting and Sculpture on Esmeralda Street in the Guerrero district. High-school age students from poor families in the neighborhood were given free art supplies along with free instruction in painting and drawing; they also had courses in French, art history, Mexican art, and general culture. Frida taught an introductory class in painting at La Esmeralda, as the school became known, where her colleagues were leading artists and scholars, including Francisco Zuniga, Maria Izquierdo, several distinguished European emigres, and Diego.

Frida taught informally, with respect for each student. On the first day she asked the students what they wanted to paint, and they immediately asked her to pose. One student, Guillermo Monroy, still remembers the vivid impression she made: "Frida was there in front of us, amazingly still. Her hands, placed one on top oft he other, were elegant and bedecked with rings. Her beautifully manicured fingernails were long and lacquered with bright red polish. Her silky black hair was criss- crossed on top of her head in meticulous braids, beautifully decorated in the center with a tiny bunch of gaudy magenta bougainvillaea. Her filigree earrings were two small suns made of gold. Smooth skin, firm and cool. Dark, restless eyes seeing beyond earth and sky, black eyebrows joining to form the delicate wings of a bird. The freshest of smiles flowering on her red lips. At her throat she wore a necklace of fine intertwined gold chains with a charming and beautifully worked heart-shaped pendant encircled by a ring of stars. Her blouse was a traditional native huipil embroidered with red flowers on a yellow ground set off by a front panel of black, her full skirt decorated with small geometric shapes of gold and magenta. Resting softly on her shoulders was an elegant black rebozo, delicately fringed and sprinkled with tiny bunches of shamrocks."

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Frida and Los Fridos, c. 1943. From left: Fanny Rabel, Frida, Arturo Estrada, and Arturo Garcia Bustos.

Frida directed long conversations that stimulated her students' curiosity and imagination; she took them to off-beat places like Huejotzingo in carnival season, the nearby cities of Texcoco and Puebla, and the pyramids of Teotihuacan, "so they would appreciate what magnificent builders their great ancestors were." She wanted to better their appreciation of the arts of Mexico, especially its folk art, but also of modern murals with their clear social messages.

A few months after she began teaching, it became obvious that Frida's health would prevent her from traveling to La Esmeralda. Frida continued the course in her home; each day the students commuted to Coyoacan. At first, the entire group arrived to paint in the garden of the Casa Azul, but finally there remained only four students, Guillermo Monroy, Arturo Garda Bustos, Arturo "Guero" Estrada, and Fanny Rabel. The group became known as the Fridos.

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Alberto Veraza, Frida, Guillermo Monroy, Fanny Rabel, Arturo Garcia Bustos, the chauffeur, and Arturo Estrada, Texcoco, c. 1944

The students adapted well to Frida's unorthodox system of instruction: creative freedom closely linked with self-discipline, a method that required neither the teacher's constant presence at the student's side nor the taking of a paintbrush from the student's hand to correct his or her work. Frida left her students to follow their own paths, respecting their ideas and their work and treating them like mature adults.

Monroy recalls that Frida suggested that they go out in the street, "to get acquainted with life so we could understand it better and be able to paint it. We all went to the markets, the factories, the countryside, we mixed with the people.... Frida told us that direct contact with life and participation in it, not as mere spectators but as socially active citizens, would open new artistic horizons and greatly enrich our aesthetic and human sensitivity."

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Self-Portrait with Braid, 1941

Frida also urged them to go out and visit the sites where the great muralists were working. These artists were still very active in the early 1940s. Rivera was painting a mural in the Hotel Reforma's nightclub, another about medical history in the recently inaugurated National Institute of Cardiology, and a new series of murals in the National Palace. From 1942 to 1944 Orozco was working on the dome and choir walls of the historic old Church of Jesus the Nazarene, and in 1944 Siqueiros was creating his Cuauhtemoc against the Myth in the Center for Modern Realist Art.

Frida was anxious to give her students a chance to get started in mural art themselves. In the middle of 1943 she obtained permission for her students to decorate the wall of a tavern, the Pulqueria La Rosita, located a short distance from the Casa Azul. Two years later, Frida arranged a second mural commission for her students: the walls of a laundry facility, one of the public works of the Lazaro Cardenas administration.

At Frida's urging, her students participated in exhibitions, where the political content of their work sometimes caused them trouble with the public, but never with Diego and Frida. The couple was also supportive when the Fridos joined other students to found the Revolutionary Young Artists, a group that organized exhibitions in public parks and gardens so that their artwork could be seen by workers and the poor.

Notwithstanding the physical and spiritual closeness of Frida and her students over the years, not one of them claims to have ever seen her paint. She brought out her canvases from the studio when the class had critiques, or she would invite the students to come inside and see her work in progress. But when she painted, she worked in isolation.

***

A visit with Frida was becoming obligatory for every important person traveling through Mexico City. Through her home passed the Rockefellers, Edward G. Robinson, Josephine Baker, poet Gabriela Mistral, the presidents of various countries, many ambassadors, and other luminaries. Frida enjoyed holding court. In spite of her poor health, she was at the height of her physical beauty and had polished to perfection the image she wanted to project. The impact she produced was truly memorable, and she knew it.

Except for the last years of her life, the Casa Azul was a happy gathering place where the artist frequently organized social get-togethers for her friends. There was an endless parade of notable Mexican figures, film star Dolores del Rio, writers Salvador Novo, Carlos Pellicer, and Pita Amor, movie actress Marfa Felix and her husband, the famous singer Jorge Negrete, and the leading painters. They came to enjoy an excellent meal and Frida's invincible good humor. Each year she organized posadas, the typical Christmas season parties, with plentiful confetti, pinatas, and fireworks.

Most of Frida's relatives had grown distant after her marriage to Diego. Her aunts, as religious as her mother, did not permit their children to visit the Casa Azul: the couple living there was not married in the eyes of the church, and they belonged to the Communist party. Frida's cousins laughingly recall that some of the Calderon aunts sprinkled holy water on the sidewalks as they passed the house, especially in the years when Trotsky lived there.

But Frida was once again close to her younger sister, Cristina, who came with her children, Isolda and Antonio, to visit several times a week. The children of other friends remember Frida as a "beautiful lady who smelled good, covered with fuzz like a peach," someone who let them play with all the marvelous contents of her handbag and whose use of bad words made them laugh.

In about 1944, Frida began a diary, writing in a red leatherbound book. Written in a highly creative and imaginative style, and illustrated with drawings in pencil, colored inks, and watercolors, the diary at first recorded autobiographical information and selected anecdotes but became, with the passage of time, a summation of emotional, sometimes hysterical, outpourings. It was not unusual for Frida to show the diary to friends; she sometimes even tore out pages to give to them.

All the while, at her own slow pace, Frida painted. By the mid-1940s, she was as well known abroad as in Mexico for her art, and she was frequently invited to participate in group shows. She could sell whatever she was currently painting; sometimes incomplete pictures were purchased right off the easel. This has complicated locating her work today, for in many cases no trace remains, not even a photograph and no more of a written record than "self-portrait" and a date. It also meant she never at one time had a large number of paintings for exhibition purposes.

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Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1940

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A page from Frida's diary

At about this time Frida created several suggestive and uneasy still lifes of fruits and vegetables, sometimes including personally significant objects. A round still life was done for the dining room of the Mexican presidential residence, Los Pinos, but was later returned, perhaps because its fruits were too voluptuously graphic. She also painted still lifes of moist, audacious flowers with pistils of phallic form that pay homage to sensuality as a manifestation of life.

But most of her work was portraiture, of herself, her friends, and relatives. Some were commissioned, many for her friend and major patron, the engineer and diplomat Eduardo Morillo Safa. He ordered pictures of himself, his wife, son, daughters, and a very moving portrait of his mother, Dona Rosita Morillo Safa.

Certainly Frida's single most frequent theme was the obsessive self-portrait, in which she appears alone or with her pets or other meaningful articles. When asked, as she frequently was, why she painted herself so often, she replied, "Porque estoy muy sola" (because I am all alone). Some theorize that she painted herself to ensure she would be remembered. Alejandro Gomez Arias suggests that Frida's continual portrait painting was "a recourse, the ultimate means to survive, to endure, to conquer death."

In letters she sent to the most casual friends as well as to those she loved most profoundly, in her youth and her maturity, Frida continually used the phrase, "Don't forget me!" In later years, she began distributing photographs of herself in great quantities, perhaps another permanent and tangible means of safeguarding her place in people's memories.

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Self-Portrait with Monkeys, 1943

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The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened, 1943

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Flower of Life, 1944
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:15 am

The Colors of Life, Part 5

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The Chick, 1945

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Sun and Life, 1947

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Magnolias, 1945

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Portrait of Mariana Morillo Safa, 1944

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Portrait of Dona Rosita Morillo Safa, 1944

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Portrait of Lupita Morillo Safa, 1944

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Portrait of Natasha Gelman, 1943

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Portrait of Marte R. Gomez, 1944
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:20 am

The Colors of Life, Part 6

In 1945, after reading Sigmund Freud's Moses and Monotheism, given to her by a friend and patron, Jose Domingo Lavin, Frida painted a large oil, Moses. The result, done over three months, has the pictorial complexity of a mural design and is unlike her other work. At the center of the composition Moses floats on the river in a basket, looking out with a third eye in his forehead, the eye of knowledge. Some of Frida's recurring symbols appear-a snail, rainfall of milk, skeletons - along with great figures from history: Christ, Gandhi, Buddha, Marx, Stalin, Nefertiti, and Napoleon. There are also Egyprian, Greek, and Aztec deities and crowds of common people. "What I wanted to express very clearly and intensely," Frida declared, "was that the reason these people had to invent or imagine heroes and gods is pure fear. Fear of life and fear of death."

Although largely self-taught, and considered by many to be a naive painter, Frida was actually very sophisticated. Intelligent, well-read, and well-informed, she was acquainted with the traditional schools of painting. More important, she recognized the vanguard of Mexican and foreign art not only through her travels but through direct contact with the artists. Direct influences show up in some cases, as in Magnolias (1945), reminiscent of the work of Georgia O'Keeffe, or in Four Inhabitants of Mexico City (1938), recalling de Chirico. Her earliest works showed an acquaintance with art books; in her first self-portrait for Gomez Arias, she described herself as "your Botticelli," and in letters to him she expressed interest in Modigliani and Piero della Francesca. Her use of suffocating background vegetation is similar to that of Henri Rousseau, the small figures in What the Water Gave Me (1938) like something out of Hieronymus Bosch, and the written legends in others like those of the Mexican painter Hermenegildo Bustos.

But Frida was also the product of a bold and brilliant generation that looked back with devotion to its Mexican roots and valued the reality it found there, uncontaminated by foreign influences: She admitted to having a great admiration for her husband's work, as well as that of Jose Guadalupe Posada, Jose Marfa Velasco, and Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Ad), and she found great beauty in the highly developed pre-Conquest indigenous arts.

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Moses, 1945

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Four Inhabitants of Mexico City, 1938

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Roots (The Pedregal), 1943

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What the Water Gave Me, 1938

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Self-Portrait with Unbound Hair, 1947

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Frida at her easel, 1951

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Self-Portrait with Portrait of Dr. Juan Farill

Frida and Diego possessed several hundred Mexican ex-votos. These religious paintings, done by anonymous artists, traditionally are donated to churches as offerings to Jesus Christ, the Virgin, or a favorite saint in acknowledgment of divine intervention in times of severe trouble or illness. Generally painted on small pieces of metal, they carry short verbal descriptions of the events depicted. This format inspired Kahlo to combine text and imagery in many of her works and to paint scenes in commemoration of significant relationships and occasions. In Self-Portrait with Portrait of Dr. Juan Farill (1951), the image of the doctor substitutes for the miracle-working saint, and Frida, the invalid, sits in a wheelchair, painting with her own blood, using her obliging heart as a palette.

Frida was claimed early on by Breton and the Surrealists as one of their own, and for a time she did not seem to mind being caught up and identified with the chic vanguard movement. But later, she declared herself not one of them, and most today would agree. "I never painted dreams," she said. "I painted my own reality."
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:23 am

Tree of Hope, Part 1

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Tree of Hope, Stand Fast, 1946

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In 1946 Frida painted Tree of Hope, Stand Fast, tided with a line from a favorite song and a phrase she used often. Frida lies on a gurney, a sheet pulled back to reveal bloody incisions in her back. Another Frida sits on a chair, costumed and holding a brace and a banner proclaiming "Arbol de la esperanza, mantente firme." The picture refers to her most recent operation: Frida had been to New York in June for surgery to fuse four vertebrae with a metal rod and a piece of bone extracted from her pelvis.

Before the surgery, Frida had presented another picture, The Wounded Deer (The Little Deer) (1946), to her good friend Arcady Boyder. A beautiful animal, with the body of a deer and Frida's head, has been impaled by arrows. The creature faces her fate with equanimity, much as Frida did when she agreed to the operation. She was optimistic about the prospect of relief from the constant pain she endured, but as time went on, it became clear that this point marked the beginning of the end.

For some time prior to the U.S. trip, Frida had been suffering increasing fatigue, weight loss, anemia, and pain in her right leg and back. A fungus growth had reappeared on her right hand, and she was in a nervous and despondent state. Doctors diagnosed and treated her for a variety of ailments, prescribing complete rest, diets, medicines, injections, and steel and plaster corsets. The corsets offered some relief but did not stop the pain.

After months of confinement, she finally flew to New York with her sister Cristina for the operation. Although again bedridden for several months, Frida seemed to recover well. But once back in Mexico, her condition did not improve. Frida's mood swung from euphoria to deep depression, and she was subject to fits of paranoia. At times violent, she would throw things, even at Diego, and hit people with her cane. She was drinking, and her constant pain required daily doses of Demerol and other drugs on which she became hideously dependent in her last years. As her health deteriorated, Frida became absorbed in the details of her case, perhaps morbidly so, discussing her ailments at length with her physicians. Her doctors now included a psychiatrist. (Frida was the first woman in Mexico to undergo psychoanalysis.)

Medical expenses and construction costs of the Anahuacalli museum were exacerbating Diego and Frida's already strained financial condition. They often painted with sales in mind, hoping to generate quick income. Diego once took watercolors around to sell to friends to pay the electric bill. Occasionally when in need, Frida would send a painting to a friend unasked, with a bill for ten thousand pesos, her going price. (Delores del Rio once sent back an unsolicited work; Frida was furious and ended the friendship.) Now under a heavier burden than ever before, Diego would sometimes paint two watercolors a day.

Largely housebound, Frida was spending long hours alone. Diego was seeing the beautiful film star Marfa Felix, and the newspapers talked of a possible divorce. But the marriage held, and their relationship, although pervaded by illness and infidelities, was not without sudden displays of loving affection. Salvador Novo wrote, "At night when he stayed to take care of her, Diego closed the doors one by one and slept in the room next to hers .... The evenings that he spent in Coyoacan he tried to amuse her. He danced and sang songs in French, English, Russian, and native Indian languages .... Frida could watch from her bed, Diego all the while forgetting that it was three o'clock in the morning, because when he worked, or when he played, he completely forgot the time." Adelina Zendejas recalls visiting Frida at the hospital late one evening to find Diego with a tambourine, dancing around her bed like an enormous bear.

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Diego and Frida, 1950

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Frida sketching a Huichol Indian, 1950

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The Wounded Deer (The Little Deer), 1946

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The Broken Column, 1944

By 1950 Dr. Juan Farill decided Frida should undergo another bone graft, one which proved disastrous. The implanted bone caused a severe infection, and Frida spent the next nine months in the hospital. For a time Diego took a room next to hers. Throughout the day, her room became a meeting place for doctors and for friends who brought films, books, decorated candy skulls, and all kinds of gifts. She continued to paint although confined to her bed. Diego even sent a fully costumed Huichol Indian to pose for her. In the midst of the visitors, the attention, the support of her sisters and the drugs that sustained her espiritu contento, as she called it, she went from treatment to treatment, hoping to relieve her constant pain.

A letter from her sister Matilde to Frida's old friend Dr. Eloesser catalogs the grim details of Frida's condition. On removing one of her orthopedic corsets, the medical staff found a purulent abscess, which again sent her to the operating room, how the smell of "a dead dog" emanated from another wound that would not heal, and how the blackened tips of the toes of Frida's infected foot fell off spontaneously.

Matilde also told Eloesser that "Diego had behaved himself very well this time," and therefore Frida was calm, grasping at the edges of hope, still dreaming that each operation would be the last.

Despite these trials, there were attempts to maintain the old ways of gaiety, excitement, and drama. In December 1950, when Frida was home again, she and Diego held a big fiesta to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their second marriage. Frida appeared as a bride with a veil and a crown. Diego was elegantly garbed in a theatrical cape and broad-brimmed hat. Her brother-in-law "married" them in a mock ceremony, asking if anyone knew of any obstacle to the wedding; at this point Diego's daughter by Lupe Marin, Ruth Rivera, then tall and husky and in her twenties, to everyone's amusement entered dressed like a baby and carrying a big pacifier, shouting "Daddy! Daddy!"

Although she became gradually distanced from many old friends, Frida in her last years enjoyed a close group of special visitors. Cristina and her children continued to visit, as well as Frida's older sisters. From her bed upstairs in the Casa Azul, she held a mini-salon where she reminisced about long-ago adventures such as going with Picasso to the Deux Magots. Poet Carlos Pellicer and art critic Antonio Rodriguez were frequent guests. Teresa Proenza, Diego's secretary until his death, and Elena Vasquez Gomez, who worked at the Foreign Ministry, came often; their names, with those of Marfa Felix, Diego, and painter Irene Bohus, were painted in red letters around Frida's bedroom wall as a tribute to their special friendship.

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Aurora Reyes, Frida, and Cristina Kahlo, c. 1950

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Josephine Baker talking with Frida, c. 1952
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:32 am

Tree of Hope, Part 2

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Frida being greeted by Dr. Ad (far right) at the opening of her exhibition at Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo, April 13, 1953

In 1953 preparations were started for a retrospective of Frida's art at the National Institute of Fine Arts, but events moved so slowly that Diego was afraid Frida would not live to see it. Their friend Lola Alvarez Bravo offered to have the show in April at her large Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo.1t would be Frida's first one-person exhibition in her own country, and only her second anywhere. Diego personally supervised the installation, and Frida made the invitations. It was a great lift to her spirits, but to the last minute no one knew if Frida would be well enough to attend.

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Light (Fruit of Life), c. 1954

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Long Live Life, 1954

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Frida's diary, 1953

With her usual flair, however, Frida arrived at the exhibition's opening by ambulance with a motorcycle escort. Too ill to stand, she lay in the center of the crowded room in her canopied bed, which had been brought for the occasion from the Casa Azul and remained as an integral part of the exhibition. From her bed she greeted each of her guests as they passed through an informal receiving line. It was a macabre, theatrical event. To Time magazine reporters she declared, "I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint."

The next month Frida was hospitalized once more, and by July doctors decided it was necessary to amputate her right leg below the knee because of the gangrenous condition of her foot. It was a terrible blow. She spent three months in the hospital, dispirited when alone, but able to make humorous remarks to visiting friends about the unimportance of her leg. In her diary she wrote the poignant phrase, "Pies para que los quiero, si tengo alas pa' volar?" (Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly?).

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Without Hope, 1945

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One of Frida's plaster corsets, which she decorated with a hammer and sickle, c. 1950

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Frida and Stalin, c. 1954
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:33 am

Tree of Hope, Part 3

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Drug-ridden, alcoholic, and smoking heavily, Frida painted very little in 1953 but a few still lifes of fruit, done with an unsteady hand and heavy paint. She was fitted with an artificial leg but disliked wearing it, preferring to use a wheelchair or crutches to get around. "They amputated my leg six months ago," she wrote in her diary in February 1954. "They have given me centuries of torture and at moments I almost lost my reason. I keep on wanting to kill myself. Diego is what keeps me from it through my vain idea that he would miss me. He h;1s told me that and I believe it. But never in my life have I suffered more. I will wait a while...."

One of Frida's last paintings is a still life of ripe, red watermelons, inscribed with the words "Viva la vida," long live life. Even so, she went to the hospital twice, in April and May, possibly for attempted suicide. On July 2, pale and weak, she made her last public appearance at a demonstration protesting C.I.A. intervention in the overthrow of leftist President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala. Without makeup or her usual colorful outfit, her hair covered by a wrinkled scarf tied under her chin, she rode at Diego's side in her wheelchair, holding up a placard declaring "Por la paz," for peace.

Marching in the rain with the crowds was a strong gesture of support for Diego and a political cause, but one that exacted a final toll on her frail health. She returned home exhausted and soon developed bronchial pneumonia. During the next days she felt tired and dispirited. On her forty-seventh birthday, July 6, a few friends came to celebrate, waiting for her to come out of her drugged stupor so they could see her dressed up, vivacious and happy, for what proved to be the last time. Frida died seven days later from a pulmonary embolism, according to the death certificate signed by her psychiatrist, Ramon Parres. Her death might actually have been by suicide or an accidental overdose of drugs and alcohol, but no postmortem was performed.

The last entry in her diary is a sketch of a black angel with the words, "Espero alegre la salida - y espero no volver jamas. Frida" (I hope for a happy exit and I hope never to come back).

Placed in a coffin, her hair dressed, her hands bejeweled, Frida's body was taken through rainy streets to lie in state at a government building, the Palace of Fine Arts. The director, Andres 1duarte, an old friend from the Prepa, granted this tribute with the understanding that Diego would not turn it into a leftist political event. Diego agreed, but also assented when one of the Fridos, Arturo Garda Bustos, placed a red Communist flag with hammer and sickle over her bier, causing days of turmoil that Frida would have loved. Diego's refusal to remove the flag helped him gain his long-sought readmission to the Communist party some months later, but Iduarte lost his job.

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Frida's last public appearance, on July 2, 1954, at a rally protesting C.I.A. involvement in Guatemala. Diego is behind her. Juan O'Gorman to her right.

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Friday's body surrounded by family and mourners, Palace of Fine Arts

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Frida's casket being carried from the Palace of Fine Arts

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Frida's funeral procession, July 14, 1954

A great crowd came to pay respect to Frida for the last time and, under lightly drizzling rain, walked behind the hearse that carried her body to the venerable Panteon Civil de Dolores for cremation. This was her choice: having spent so much of her life flat on her back, she had always said emphatically that she did not want to be buried lying down.

Director Iduarte spoke, Carlos Pellicer read his moving sonnets, and Adelina Zendejas, a friend since Prepa days, remembered Frida with a few words. With Diego and her sisters stood David Alfaro Siqueiros, Juan O'Gorman, Miguel Covarrubias, and a host of other friends. Her body was laid out on a straw petate and rolled into the ovens. As the flames consumed her remains, Frida's friends and relatives sang songs - the Mexican national hymn, the "Internacional," "Los Cuatro Generales," "La Adelita," "Adios mi Chaparrita," and "Benjamin el Minero." Afterward, Diego gathered her ashes into a silk scarf to take them home.

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In July 1958, four years to the month after her death, the Casa Azul was opened to the public as a museum. The tall windows facing the street have been bricked in, but the walls are still painted blue, and Judas figures still loom at the entry. One can walk through the thick-walled rooms and gaze at the cupboard filled with toys, the retablos hung on the stairway wall, the painted pages of an open diary. Upstairs, an unfinished portrait of Stalin waits on the studio easel. From the hallway through an open door there is a view down to the garden, where doves still nest in pottery niches set into the walls. On the canopied bed sits a decorated plaster corset, mocking testimony to pain transcended. The ashes of Frida Kahlo rest nearby in an ancient pre-Conquest urn. Although she is gone, she lives on through her paintings, her story, and the silence of the Casa Azul.
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Re: Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish, by Martha Zamora

Postby admin » Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:37 am

Chronology

1907 On July 6, Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderon is born in Coyoacan, Mexico, the third of Matilde Calderon and Guillermo Kahlo's four daughters.

1913 Frida suffers an attack of poliomyelitis, permanently affecting the use of her right leg.

1922 Frida enters the National Preparatory School, where she meets Diego Rivera, who is painting his mural Creation at the school.

1925 On September 17, Frida is seriously injured in a streetcar accident. She begins to paint during her convalescence.

1926 Kahlo's earliest paintings include portraits of Alicia Galant, her sister Adriana, Miguel N. Lira, and a self-portrait dedicated to Alejandro Gomez Arias.

1929 On August 21, Kahlo marries Rivera. She is twenty-two years old; he is forty-three.

1930 On November 10 Frida arrives with Rivera in San Francisco.

1931 In San Francisco Kahlo meets Dr. Leo Eloesser, who becomes her lifelong medical adviser.

After a brief trip to Mexico, in November Kahlo and Rivera travel to New York for his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

1932 In Detroit for Diego's work on murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Frida is hospitalized because of severe hemorrhaging.

Kahlo's mother dies.

1933 Kahlo and Rivera return to New York. She paints My Dress Hangs There (New York) while Rivera paints murals at Rockefeller Center.

On December 20, Frida and Diego sail from New York for Mexico.

1934 Kahlo and Rivera live in adjoining studio-houses built for them by Juan O'Gorman in San Angel.

Rivera begins an affair with Cristina Kahlo, Frida's sister.

1935 Kahlo and Rivera separate. Kahlo temporarily takes an apartment in Mexico City, then in July travels to New York. When she returns, the couple reconciles.

1937 On January 9, Leon Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, arrive in Mexico and live at the Casa Azul.

1938 French Surrealist Andre Breton visits Mexico and meets Frida. American collector and film actor Edward G. Robinson purchases four works, her first significant sale.

From October 25 to November 14, Kahlo's first one-person exhibition is held at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York.

1939 Kahlo travels to Paris in January for Mexique, an exhibition organized by Andre Breton which features her paintings. The Louvre purchases her self-portrait The Frame.

Kahlo returns home in April, and in the fall she and Rivera begin divorce proceedings, which are finalized in November.

1940 In January The Two Fridas and The Wounded Table are exhibited in the International Surrealism Exhibition organized by the Gallery of Mexican Art.

Frida goes to San Francisco for further medical treatment from Dr. Eloesser. She shows her work in the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exhibition. The Two Fridas is shown in New York at the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art.

On December 8 in San Francisco, Kahlo remarries Diego Rivera.

1941 Guillermo Kahlo dies.

Kahlo returns to the family home in Coyoacan to live.

1942 Rivera begins building Anahuacalli, his anthropological museum.

Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Braid is included in the exhibition Twentieth-Century Portraits at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1943 A Kahlo painting is exhibited in a group show, A Century of the Portrait in Mexico (1830-1942), at the Benjamin Franklin Library, Mexico City. Her work is included in Mexican Art Today at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is shown in Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery in New York.

Kahlo begins teaching at the Ministry of Public Education's School of Painting and Sculpture, La Esmeralda.

1946 Kahlo paints The Wounded Deer and Tree of Hope, Stand Fast. She goes to New York for surgery on her spine.

1947 Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego in My Thoughts) is exhibited in Forty-five Self-Portraits by Mexican Painters, from the XVIII to the XX Centuries at the National Institute of Fine Arts.

1949 Kahlo writes the essay "Portrait of Diego" and paints Diego and I and The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Me, Diego, and Mr. Xolotl, which is exhibited at the inaugural exhibition of the Salon de la Plastica Mexicana.

1950 Kahlo is hospitalized for nine months because of recurring spinal problems.

1951 Kahlo paints Self-Portrait with Portrait of Dr. Juan Farill, several still-lifes, and Portrait of My Father.

1953 From April 13 to 27, Kahlo's only individual exhibition in Mexico is held at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo.

In July her right leg is amputated below the knee because of gangrene.

1954 Frida is hospitalized in April and May. On July 2, convalescing from bronchial pneumonia, she takes part in a demonstration protesting U.S. intervention in Guatemala. On the night of July 13, she dies.

1957 On November 24, Diego Rivera dies in his San Angel studio. He is buried in the Rotunda of Famous Men in Mexico City, in contradiction to his expressed wish that he be cremated and his ashes commingled with those of Frida.

1958 On July 30, the Casa Azul is opened to the public as the Frida Kahlo Museum.
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