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Past Exhibitions

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Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting

February 14–May 12, 2013

The exhibition featured more than 75 works primarily drawn from the collection of Mexico’s Dolores Olmedo as well as the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art.

“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.” — Frida Kahlo

Overview

Few artists have captured the public’s imagination like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). The myths that surrounded them during their lifetime arose not only from their significant body of work, but also from their active participation in the historical happenings around them.

Frida & Diego positioned the artists’ work within the political and artistic contexts of their time. Their art spoke of a fierce loyalty to and pride in Mexico, the ideals of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and their commitment to the conditions of the common man.

The exhibition featured more than 75 works primarily drawn from the collection of Mexico’s Dolores Olmedo as well as the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art.

The High Museum of Art was the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, which was accompanied by a full-color catalogue. The exhibition premiered at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the Fall of 2012.

Frida

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her father, the German-born Guillermo Kahlo, had immigrated to Mexico in 1891, while her mother, Matilde Calderón y Gonzalez, was of indigenous (Amerindian) and Spanish ancestry.

As a young girl, Kahlo excelled academically and planned to study medicine. But her life changed on September 17, 1925, when a city bus she was riding collided with a trolley car. Her extensive injuries included a broken spinal column, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and an iron handrail had pierced her abdomen. These injuries kept Kahlo bedridden for more than a year, during which time she began to teach herself to paint to alleviate her boredom.

Kahlo was already a member of the Mexican Communist Party when she met Diego Rivera, who was at the time painting his murals for the Public Ministry of Education. Rivera encouraged Kahlo to pursue her painting. Although he was twenty years her elder, a relationship developed between Rivera and Kahlo and they married in 1929.

Their marriage was turbulent. Both had extramarital affairs, including Kahlo’s relationship with the Communist leader Leon Trotsky. After Kahlo learned of her husband’s affair with her younger sister Cristina in 1939, the couple divorced, but remarried a year later. Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, at the age of 47. Today, a pre-Columbian urn holding her ashes is on display in her former home, The Blue House, in Coyoacán.

Diego

“Every good composition is above all a work of abstraction. All good painters know this. But the painter cannot dispense with subjects altogether without his work suffering impoverishment.” – Diego Rivera

Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, in 1886. He studied painting and in 1907, through the sponsorship of the governor of the State of Veracruz, Mexico, moved to Madrid to study painting. By 1909 Diego moved to Paris and spent much of the next fourteen years there. Leaving Paris when World War I broke out, he traveled around Europe, including southern France and Italy, and was influenced by the work of Picasso, Cézanne, and Renoir. When he began to study Renaissance frescoes in Italy, however, he knew he had found his medium.

With a vision for the future of fresco and a strong belief in public art, in 1921 Rivera returned to Mexico,where he soon found work with the new revolutionary government. That fame earned him many commissions. Diego met Frida Kahlo in 1928 and married her the following year. They had a passionate and tumultuous relationship. Each had numerous extramarital affairs, divorcing in 1939 but quickly remarrying in 1940.

In the 1930s Rivera made several trips to the United States, where he painted murals at the California School of Fine Arts, The American Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, and the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Another mural was commissioned for the Rockefeller Center in New York, but was destroyed before it was made public. In 1936 Rivera was instrumental in the defection of Leon Trotsky from the Soviet Union to Mexico, after which Trotsky lived with Frida and Diego for a long time.

Rivera was devastated by Kahlo’s death in 1954 and became ill not long after her death. Although weak, he continued to paint, and even remarried. He died of heart failure in 1957.

Organization and Support

Frida and Diego credits

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