Images from an ex­cep­tional life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

The pic­ture is set out like a fam­ily tree em­pha­sis­ing the eth­nic types of her fore­bears: on the left, her Na­tive Mex­i­can grand­fa­ther and Span­ish grand­mother pro­duce the beau­ti­ful mes­tiza mother, while on the right her pa­ter­nal grand­mother is imag­ined as a re­fined Jewish woman and her grand­fa­ther as an im­pres­sive Ger­man or Hun­gar­ian gen­tle­man with Haps­burg whiskers — who some­how merge in the

by Gisèle Fre­und (1951), main; op­po­site page, clockwise from top left ; Frida Kahlo, by Lola Ál­varez Bravo (c.1944); Frida paint­ing the por­trait of her fa­ther, Frida stom­ach down, neat fig­ure of her fa­ther. Frida was very con­scious of ex­ist­ing be­tween cul­tures: in The Two Fri­das (1939, Museo di Arte Moderno, Mex­ico City) she rep­re­sents her­self in a dou­ble self-por­trait with con­nected hearts: an el­e­gant Euro­pean lady on one side, and a Mex­i­can woman in tra­di­tional folk dress on the other. And, es­pe­cially when trav­el­ling abroad, she liked to dress up in colour­ful folk cos­tumes.

Her fa­ther, Guillermo Kahlo, seems to have been an in­ter­est­ing man, a pho­tog­ra­pher who took many pic­tures of the fam­ily and also made a num­ber of self-por­traits. In one pic­ture he is mounted on horse­back and wear­ing a som­brero; a series of three framed to­gether show him first in top hat in a for­mal stu­dio carte-de­vis­ite shot, then naked from be­hind in a semi­clas­si­cal at­ti­tude, and fi­nally in shirt­sleeves, stand­ing on a ter­race in Mex­ico and shield­ing his eyes from the glare.

Frida Kahlo with the doc­tor Juan Far­ill,by Gisèle Fre­und (1951); Frida at age of 5 (1912); Frida Kahlo af­ter an op­er­a­tion, by An­to­nio Kahlo (1946); s by Nick­o­las Mu­ray (1946).

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