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Frida Kahlo: Her final years, in black & white and color
07.31.2017
11:45 am
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Monday, I’ve got Frida on my mind, and I’ll tell you why. You see, I’ve been thinking about Frida Kahlo and her paintings and the bravery with which she countered the many unbelievable difficulties in her life. Most of our problems are but very small potatoes when compared to the physical and emotional hardships Frida endured. The cards were really stacked against her. The likes of you and me have it easy by comparison.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, it all really started when Kahlo was involved in a near fatal road accident in 1925. The bus she was traveling on collided with a tram. Frida was impaled on an iron handrail, her pelvis, several ribs, legs, and collar bone were all fractured and three of her vertebrae were displaced. She was bedridden for several months as she recuperated. The fact is: her health never really fully recovered from the damage done, and Frida was in and out of hospitals for most of her life. Her original plans to study medicine at university were now impossible, but rather than give up and succumb to self-pity, Frida Kahlo recalibrated her ambitions and decided to become an artist. She said this was her chance “to begin again, painting things just as I saw them with my own eyes and nothing more.”

A mirror was placed on her bed, enabling Kahlo to paint her own portrait. She later said that she painted self-portraits because she was so often alone and “because I am the person I know best.” After her recuperation from her accident, Frida mixed with her old school friends. She became a communist and she met the artist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929. It was to be a tumultuous, passionate and painful relationship. Frida later said:

There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the tram, the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.

For his lack of looks, Rivera was apparently irresistible to women. He carried out several affairs during their marriage. In constant physical pain from the accident, Frida now suffered the devastating emotional pain caused by Diego’s serial philandering. The pair divorced in 1939 but remarried again in 1940.

For all the years dedicated to art, it wasn’t until the last years of her life that Frida had her first solo exhibition at the Galería Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico, in April 1953. It was thought she would be too ill to attend, but her four poster bed was installed in the gallery and Frida was taken by ambulance for the exhibition’s opening.

By this point, Frida was in constant agonizing pain. One leg was amputated due to gangrene and a series of different infections meant she underwent several operations. She also had to deal with the damage of another one of Diego’s affairs which led her to attempt suicide in 1953. Yet, Frida ultimately overcame these problems and decided it was best that she lived. She moved the focus of her art away from herself towards the greater more pressing issue of making the world a better place for everyone.

I must struggle with all my strength to ensure that the little positive my health allows me to do [work which] also benefits the Revolution, the only real reason to live.

In her final year, Frida produced work like “Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick” and “Frida and Stalin.” She died in July 1954. The last words she wrote in her journal were:

I joyfully await the exit—and I hope never to return—Frida

Looking at photographs of Frida Kahlo, I can’t help but marvel at her strong features and character. And also how she must have taken the time every morning to “prepare a face to meet the faces” as T.S. Eliot put it. Frida crafted her own image which she maintained like an artwork throughout her life. During her final years, many photographers visited Frida at her home in Mexico. Most of the following pictures were taken by Gisèle Freund who visited Frida and Diego in 1951. The two arresting B&W head portraits of Frida were taken by Marcel Sternberger in 1952. The color portrait of Frida in hospital holding a sugar skull was taken by Juan Guzmán circa 1951.
 
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More photographs from Frida Kahlo’s final years, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.31.2017
11:45 am
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Frida Kahlo’s secret revenge affair with Leon Trotsky
11.13.2013
05:17 pm
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To get back at her much older husband for his most recent infidelity, Frida Kahlo’s odd choice of a lover was their new housemate, the even older and also married Leon Trotsky. It is a plot out of a French farce, soap opera, proper high-brow opera, or an episode of The Jerry Springer Show if he had Marxist Revolutionary Week.

The exiled 58-year-old Leon Trotsky and his second wife Natalia Sedova arrived in Tampico, Mexico on a heavily guarded Norwegian oil tanker on January 9, 1937. The muralist and dedicated Trotskyite Diego Rivera had lobbied the Mexican government to offer Trotsky political asylum. Diego, ill and hospitalized, could not be at the port to meet the Trotskys. Instead his young wife, surrealist artist Frida Kahlo, was at the dock with journalists, Communist Party members, and government officials. She accompanied the couple back to Coyoacán and the home she shared with Diego, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), where the Trotskys lived heavily protected and catered to for two years.

Still angry and hurt from discovering Diego’s affair with her beautiful younger sister Cristina, Frida lost no time in openly flirting with Trotsky, who must have been flattered as hell at the attention. That spring their emotional affair grew into a physical one. Some of Frida and Trotsky’s clandestine meetings took place at Cristina’s house, which Diego had probably bought for her, along with a suite of red leather furniture. Frida and and Trotsky spoke English in front of their spouses, whose grasp of the language was paltry to non-existent, in Natalia’s case. He sneaked love letters to Frida between the pages of books he loaned to her.

Rivera was, by all accounts, an unrepentant philanderer with the hypocritical tendency to randomly fly into jealous rage when Frida behaved similarly with other men during their stormy marriage. (Her affairs with women, like Josephine Baker, didn’t bother him.) Stephanie Mencimer wrote in Washington Monthly, “Legend has it that for American women traveling to Mexico, having sex with Rivera was considered as essential as visiting Tenochtitlan.”

Diego and Natalia eventually discovered the dalliance, which seems to have been over by July 1937. Surprisingly he allowed Trotsky to continue to live at La Casa Azul instead of coming after him with a gun. There was enough of a political falling-out between the two men, not over infidelity but over Trotskyism, to prompt the revolutionary and his wife to move out of La Casa Azul and into a nearby house on Avenida Viena in early 1939. He left behind the self-portrait she had dedicated to him, “Between the Curtains.” In the painting she is holding a document that says, “To Trotsky with great affection, I dedicate this painting November 7, 1937. Frida Kahlo, in San Angel, Mexico.” November 7th was Trotsky’s birthday as well as the Gregorian calendar anniversary of the October Revolution.
 
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Frida and Trostky remained friends until his assassination by Ramón Mercader on Stalin’s orders the following year. She was a suspect in the murder and held by police for questioning for two days.

No passionate missives between the unlikely lovers survive. According to biographer Bertrande M. Patenaude, author of Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary, at the end of their brief relationship Trotsky asked Frida to return all his love letters so he could burn them.
 
Frida & Diego & Natalia & Leon: Rare home movie footage from 1938 of the two couples in Coyocoán, Mexico:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright
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11.13.2013
05:17 pm
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‘Saints and Sinners’: 66 whores, reprobates and scam artists from history


 
Fantastic portrait series titled “Saints and Sinners” from New York City-based artist—and founder of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art SchoolMolly Crabapple. Each print is available for $80 over at Molly’s website.


 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.01.2011
12:54 pm
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