I met up with Pete, who some of you will know from the Ouch boards, for a trip to the Tate Modern. When I arrived Pete suggested we take a look at the Frida Kahlo exhibition that was entering it's final weekend.
Before the exhibition I knew very little about Kahlo's work. I knew she was Mexican and was disabled and a film was made about her starring Selma Hayak and that's about it.
Kahlos was born in Mexico in 1907 and contracted childhood polio. She didn't take up art until 1925 after she was in a very bad bus crash which broke her spine in 3 places and fractured her right leg, collarbone, ribs and pelvis. Consequently she was confined to bed for a long period. It was during her convalescence that she began to paint. A special easel was constructed which allowed her to paint lying down. She made her first self portrait (1926). By her death in 1954 she had produced around 200 images.
She returned to the self-portrait time and time again when asked why she said that she was 'the person I know best'. What I particularly liked about Kahlo's work was it's surrealist quality. looking at some of her paintings is quite unsettling. There are images of miscarriages, being force fed and murder amongst her work. She did always try and distance herself from the surrealist movement but to my mind (and I no nothing about art except to comment on whether I like a painting or not) she is undoubtedly a surrealist. Her most famous work is a painting called 'The Two Fridas' was painted for the 'International Exhibition of Surrealism' which was held in Mexico City in 1940 and her work was championed by leading Surrealists like Marcel Duchamp.
One interesting thing about Kahlo I discovered at the exhibition is that Leon Trotsky lived at her house when he fled to Mexico. It was to be his final home.
Unfortunately the Kahlo exhibition finishes tomorrow so unless you are very quick you're going to miss it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, there are some fantastic pictures on display and she was a fascinating character. Her impairment was depicted in her works, from earlier portraits and drawings of her lying in bed to middle period works like The Broken Column in which a Ionic column takes place of her damaged spine, it's a chilling picture as the flesh is ripped back to expose the 'spine', and finally in 1951 she painted Self Portrait with Portrait of Dr Farill, in which she is pictured in her wheelchair in front of her surgeon.
She is undoubtedly an important artist an well worth checking out.