Age 2, circa 1909
Much of what interests us about Frida Kahlo’s art is very personal. Themes of disability, fertility, ethnicity, sex and gender, romance, love and communism pervade her work, adding to the romantic fascination that her life inspires. Less often considered are the strange and erratic circumstances of her family life—beyond, of course, the fact that her husband Diego Rivera had an affair with her sister Cristina, pictured below.
Frida’s photographer father Guillermo, who took these pictures, was a compelling character in his own right. He was born in Germany as Carl Wilhelm Kahlo (Frida insisted he was Jewish, though evidence indicates he was actually Lutheran), but he hispanicized the “Wilhelm” to “Guillermo” upon moving to Mexico. Guillermo’s father actually footed the travel bill because his son did not get along with his stepmother. Before marrying Frida’s mother, he had two daughters with his first wife, who died giving birth to their third child. Scandalously, Guillermo asked Frida’s maternal grandfather for permission to marry his daughter the very night his first wife died, and then sent his children from the marriage to be raised in a convent, shortly after the wedding.
Despite all of this, Frida was raised in a home of relative comfort and was close to her family. Her father appears to have been very supportive of her, even allowing her to dress in men’s clothing for a family photo. Even as a baby, her face is unmistakable—right down to the strong brows.
Age 4, 1911
Age 4, 1911
Age 5, 1912
More after the jump…