Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor
Organized in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth, Frida Kahlo is the first major Kahlo exhibition in the United States in nearly fifteen years. It presents over forty of the artist's most important self-portraits, still lifes, and portraits from the beginning of her career in 1926 until her death in 1954. Rendered in vivid colors and realistic detail, Kahlo's jewel-like paintings are filled with complex symbolism, often relating to specific incidents in her life. In her iconic self-portraits the artist continually reinvented herself. Paintings like The Two Kahlos (1939) demonstrate her penchant for self-examination, and works like Henry Ford Hospital (1932) and The Broken Column (1944) express her struggles with illness throughout her life.
Discover how Kahlo constructed her own identity... var f_divname="mp3player"; var f_width=133; var f_height=60; var f_file="Frida Kahlo Overview,Frida Kahlo Context"; var f_filetype="exhibitionMinutes"; var f_title="Overview,Context"; Listen to or download curator Michael Taylor's 2-part Podcast. Available in The exhibition includes loans from over thirty private and institutional collections in the United States, Mexico, France, and Japan, several of which have never been on public view in the United States. Frida Kahlo also features a selection of nearly one hundred photographs of Kahlo and her husband, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, by preeminent international photographers of the period, such as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Gisèle Freund, Tina Modotti, and Nickolas Muray. Personal snapshots of the artist with family and friends, including such cultural and political luminaries as André Breton and Leon Trotsky, are also on view. These photographs—several of which Kahlo inscribed with dedications, effaced with self-deprecating marks, or kissed, leaving a lipstick trace—pose fascinating questions about an artist who was both the consummate manufacturer of her own image and a captivating and willing photographic subject. On loan from the collection of designer and photographer Vicente Wolf, many of these photographs have never been published or exhibited. Major lenders to the exhibition also include the Museo Dolores Olmedo and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Modern and Contemporary Mexican Art. Presenting an extraordinary combination of paintings and photographs, Frida Kahlo offers a unique perspective of one of the twentieth century's most important and revered artists. In conjunction with this exhibition, Walker Art Center has published a richly illustrated catalogue featuring more than 100 color plates as well as critical essays by Hayden Herrera, Elizabeth Carpenter, and Latin American art curator and critic Victor Zamudio-Taylor. A separate plate section is devoted to works from the Vicente Wolf Photography Collection. The catalogue also includes an extensive illustrated timeline of related sociopolitical world events, artistic and cultural developments, and significant personal experiences that took place during Kahlo's lifetime, as well as a selected bibliography, exhibition history, and index.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, a southern suburb of Mexico City, the third daughter of a German father and a mother of Spanish and Native American descent. Her life was punctuated by adversity, beginning with polio at age six that left her with a permanent limp. In 1922 she entered the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria with plans to study medicine. She was one of only thirty-five girls out of about two thousand students at the prestigious school. It was here that she met Diego Rivera for the first time. In 1925, a streetcar collided with a bus on which Kahlo was traveling, an accident that left her with numerous broken bones and serious internal injuries. She began to paint during her recuperation. Soon thereafter, she met Rivera again, and in 1929 they were married. Kahlo and Rivera associated with an eccentric group of other intellectuals, political revolutionaries, and artists at home and abroad. Their relationship was tumultuous—neither was faithful to the other, and Rivera's affair with Kahlo's younger sister Cristina proved particularly traumatic. Kahlo was openly bi-sexual and took as one of her lovers Communist leader Leon Trotsky during his exile in Mexico. Kahlo and Rivera divorced in 1940, only to remarry shortly thereafter. Kahlo had never fully recovered from her injuries from the bus accident, and in the early 1940s her health began to deteriorate, as her reputation as an artist continued to grow. She died in her sleep in 1954 at the age of 47.
Frida Kahlo is one of the most celebrated and revered artists in the world. Between 1926 and 1954, she painted over sixty self-portraits and about eighty additional paintings, mostly still lifes and portraits of friends. Her work allowed her to both express and to construct her identity. "I paint my own reality," she said. "I paint because I need to." Kahlo began painting in 1926 while recuperating from a near-fatal bus accident. She married Diego Rivera in 1929, recording the ups and downs of their tumultuous relationship in paint. She also illustrated her struggles with her deteriorating health: the orthopedic corsets she was forced to wear, the numerous spinal surgeries, as well as miscarriages and therapeutic abortions. Such painful subject matter is mitigated by Kahlo's folk art style and the small scale of her works, as well as her sardonic humor and extraordinary imagination.
Inspired in part by pre-Columbian culture and by Mexican mass culture, Kahlo's paintings were celebrated by Surrealist André Breton when he came to Mexico in 1938 and declared her to be a self-made Surrealist. Although she resisted this designation, pointing out that rather than painting dreams she painted her own reality, she recognized the advantages of being associated with the movement, and Breton helped secure exhibitions in New York in 1938 and in Paris in 1939. Politically active, Kahlo espoused Communism and identified herself with indigenous Mexican culture, and she was a central player in both artistic and political upheavals throughout the world in the 1930s and 1940s. On the occasion of her first exhibition in Mexico in 1953, Kahlo defied doctors' orders and attended the opening, receiving guests while reclining on a four-poster bed. Although sickness prevented her from creating the jewel-like paintings she had created in earlier years, her late still lifes and self-portraits from the 1950s—many of them proclaiming her allegiance to Communism—exhibit her continued creativity throughout her life.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses a distinguished group of paintings, prints, and drawings by Mexican Modernist artists. The permanent collection includes important paintings such as Man and Woman by Rufino Tamayo, War by David Alfaro Siqueiros, The White Shirt by Guillermo Meza and two portable frescoes—Liberation of the Peon and Sugar Cane—by Diego Rivera. The Museum's significant number of works from the colonial and pre-colonial period is largely derived from three sources: the Robert H. Lamborn Collection of colonial painting given in 1903, the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection of over 170 pre-Columbian sculptures and retablos from Mexico, and the group of seventeenth-century ceramics from Puebla de los Angeles collected by Edwin AtLee Barber during the first decade of the twentieth century. Discover more in , the first exhibition of its kind in a major museum in the United States.
Frida Kahlo is organized by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis • October 27–January 20, 2008
Philadelphia Museum of Art • February 20–May 18, 2008
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art • June 16–September 28, 2008
The national tour of the exhibition is made possible by Bank of America and Fundación Televisa.
Major support for the national tour is provided by Margaret and Angus Wurtele and the Fundación/Colección Jumex. Additional support is provided by Craig Baker.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the U.S. Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONACULTA) and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico.
In Philadelphia, the exhibition is also made possible by Aetna.
Additional support is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Robert Montgomery Scott Fund and The Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Fund for Exhibitions, The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, and by Frida's Friends, a group of generous individuals. Promotional support provided by NBC 10 WCAU, Amtrak and Al Día.
Hayden Herrera • Frida Kahlo scholar and biographer
Elizabeth Carpenter • Associate Curator, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
At the Philadelphia Museum of Art:
Michael Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art
Emily Hage • Modern and Contemporary Art