Images from an exceptional life
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).