From 1926 until her death in 1954, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo created striking, often shocking, images that reflected her turbulent life. One of four daughters born to a Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent, in the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacn, Kahlo did not originally plan to become an artist. During her convalescence from a bus accident in her late teens, Kahlo began to paint with oils. Her pictures, mostly self-portraits and still-lifes, were deliberately naive, filled ...
From 1926 until her death in 1954, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo created striking, often shocking, images that reflected her turbulent life. One of four daughters born to a Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent, in the Mexico City suburb of Coyoacn, Kahlo did not originally plan to become an artist. During her convalescence from a bus accident in her late teens, Kahlo began to paint with oils. Her pictures, mostly self-portraits and still-lifes, were deliberately naive, filled with the bright colors and flattened forms of the Mexican folk art she loved. At 21, Kahlo fell in love with the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera; their stormy, passionate relationship survived infidelities, the pressures of Rivera's career, a divorce and remarriage, and Kahlo's poor health. The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Kahlo met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics. She had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1938 and enjoyed considerable success during the 40s, but her reputation soared posthumously, beginning in the 80s with the publication of numerous books about her work by feminist art historians and others. In the last two decades an explosion of Kahlo-inspired films, plays, calendars, and jewelry has transformed the artist into a veritable cult figure. Portraits of an Icon is not another book featuring Kahlo's beloved, tortured self-portraits. Rather, it offers another kind of portrait of the artist, a means of seeing her through the eyes of those who surrounded her: modern masters of the camera such as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and Martin Munkacsi; leading photojournalists such as Giselle Freund, Bernard Silberstein, and Fritz Henle; and Kahlo's relatives, lovers, and friends, among them Guillermo Kahlo, Nicolas Muray, and Lola Alvarez Bravo. The images span Kahlo's life, beginning with a photograph of a self-possessed chubby four-year-old, her fists full of wilting roses, and ending with the image of an emaciated, wasted figure laying on her deathbed, dressed in pre-Columbian finery. They follow the artist's trajectory from precocious child to famous artist, bringing into focus the painter, the paintings, the patient, the wife, the daughter, the lover, the friend. They permit a look into her bedroom, a seat at her table, a visit to her hospital room, a stroll through her garden, a view into her collections, and some play with her pets. While many of these images provide us with a unique opportunity to glimpse the woman behind the facade, others, though less revealing, are equally fascinating in allowing us to view one of the most intriguing of the artist's creations--the construction of a self-image as carefully crafted and conceived as any of her works of art.
This is an entire book of photographic portraits of Kahlo, not paintings by Kahlo. And she is, from page to page, fascinating. The photographs themselves are beautiful. Sometimes sepia-toned and sometimes in grays, they are given full, sumptuous, captionless pages, and are expertly printed. Kahlo, the artist and self-proclaimed "great concealer," stares at the viewer, challenging or smug, flirtatious or sad-and always blazingly smart. Her work features in some of the backgrounds, as does artwork by Picasso or her spouse Diego Rivera. Often she holds an animal (a rabbit, a dog, a bird) like an attribute, appearing like a saint in a medieval icon painting. An array of pioneering photographers from the beginning of the 20th century made her portrait: Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, as did her lover Nickolas Murray, and her father, Guillermo Kahlo. Hooks (Tina Modotti: Radical Photographer) has assembled this grouping from the collection of the gallerist Spencer Throckmorton. The images begin with the round-faced four-year-old and end with Kahlo emaciated, posed on her deathbed. In between, it seems that few of these images were completely untouched by Kahlo herself. Her choice of clothing (headdresses or pants, or, in one case, a corset with a hammer and sickle) speaks as loudly of her personality as her steady eyes. Hooks describes how Kahlo's debilitating physical pain may have concealed her vivacious personality in some of these photographs "beneath a tight mask but her eyes seek out the viewer with a gaze that continues to challenge and captivate." Kahlo, it seems, was hardly a passive subject, leaving behind her own carefully crafted legacy as an icon. (Apr.) Forecast: With Salma Hayek's biopic Frida either still in theaters or hitting DVD around the time of this book's release, a display that includes this book, books of Kahlo's own work and that of Diego Rivera and even the mass market bio Salma could tap movie-generated interest. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kahlo, the enigmatic and mythologized Mexican surrealist, is once again at the center of the artistic gaze, although this time it is not her own. Hooks, a writer and art collector, offers what is perhaps the most exciting Kahlo book since Bulfinch's Frida Kahlo in 2001 by presenting the photographic collection of Spencer Throckmorton, a gallerist and specialist in Latin American photographs. Including over 100 photos of Kahlo, some of which have never been seen, Hooks provides two essays to accompany the works. The first highlights the importance of photography in Kahlo's life (her father was a photographer) and her art (many of her paintings are photographic in composition), while the second complements the photographs themselves, offering an extended and more detailed history of each. The black-and-white portraits of Kahlo (and some family members) are each given their own page free from catalog information and other distractions, which are reserved for the facing page. A stunning and unique addition to Kahlo and general art collections alike.-Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.