Frida Kahlo started to fascinate me at the time when the movie "Frida", about her life, was a big hit. Firstly because I found her paintings mesmerizing, secondly because I had a hard time comprehending why such a beautiful, passionate and talented young woman would put up with the likes of Diego Rivera. Ever seen a picture of the two of them together? There you are! Their unlikely union has been compared (by Frida's disapproving mother..) to that of an elephant and a dove...
Meanwhile, we've all moved on in a life and all have gained experiences that we didn't have before... Perhaps we could have don without some of them... Let me say that I now am more inclined to understand a love affair that seems destructive, but yet carries on in time. But still..
Visiting an exhibition at the wonderful Pera Museum in Istanbul on both of their works, underlined for me that Frida most certainly deserved a movie about her life. Over twenty years her senior, the number of painting he made over time (approximately 140 paintings and a similar amount of drawings) was far bigger than hers. Not in the least because Frida limited herself to the subject she knew she was expert at: herself.
Looking at the Gelman Collection (Jacques and Natasha Gelman were avid collectioners of Mexican art) the reverse could be concluded. Far more works by Frida Kahlo are on display than Rivera's. All of them depict a stage from Frida's life: from family ties and her prevailing love for Rivera via physical pain through the bus accident she was in at the age of 18 (and miraculously survived) to psychological pain caused by her inability to have children.
Looking at her paintings I couldn't help but admire her: all of them have her trademark, are clearly recognizable. Yes, she's a surrealist but yet it is so simple and clear what the works signify...
What I didn't know but learned at this wonderful exhibition is that in the last years of her life Frida didn't paint so much anymore. Her health problems caused her to be tied to the bed which inspired her to start drawing. This allowed her to easily work out fantasies in a spontaneous and direct manner. Also she started keeping a diary. Not a chronological one, but a depiction of her life at the time. The year before her death Frida was left devastated by the amputation of her foot, that had started to be gangrenous. It cause her to create the following:
The caption: Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly?
Frida's death transformed Diego Rivera, literally a monumental man into a sample of "sadness and physical detoriation". As being said, "behind every great man there is a great woman" and for Diego and Frida this certainly rang true: he died within three years after her.