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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 July, 2004, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Artist Kahlo's legend grows
Kahlo art gallery
Interest in Kahlo's painting is growing all the time
The 50th anniversary of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's death, is being celebrated by her growing number of worldwide fans. BBC News Online looks at her life and work.

During her lifetime, Kahlo did not enjoy the same level of recognition as Mexico's great mural painters - Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros.

But now her works depicting the artist as a private, vulnerable woman are becoming ever more popular.

During her life, Kahlo was a mythic figure in her own country - famous for her stormy marriage to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera as well as her communist ideals and native Mexican dress and jewellery.

Kahlo memorabilia
Visitors to the museum at her former home can buy religious-style imagery
In recent years her art has been sought by leading museums, while her dress has inspired fashion designers.

Meanwhile, her bohemian lifestyle has been the subject of plays, as well as the 2002 Oscar-nominated film Frida starring Salma Hayek.

Born in Mexico City in 1907, Kahlo began to paint in 1925 while recovering from a bus accident that left her in constant pain and permanently disabled, leading to more than 30 operations.

Many of the 200 or so paintings relate to her experiences with physical pain. Some detail her turbulent relationship with Diego Rivera, 20 years her senior, whom she met in 1928 aged 22 and married the following year (they divorced briefly in 1939, remarrying in 1940).

The pair hosted a stream of famous guests from the US and Europe, and both had numerous affairs.

Frida Kahlo, self-portrait
Kahlo has become a feminist icon round the world
Perhaps the most famous of Kahlo's trysts was with exiled Russian communist Leon Trotsky, who was killed in Mexico.

Kahlo shared Rivera's faith in communism and passionate interest in the indigenous cultures of Mexico, while he encouraged her in her work, playing up her primitive ancestry.

She had Indian blood on her mother's side, mixed with Hungarian-Jewish stock on her father's.

The artist worked at a time of surging national interest in pre-Hispanic Mexican history and culture, when the notion of native roots had great currency.

She encouraged the myth of her own primitiveness in part by adopting traditional Mexican dress, which generated respect and imparted credibility in the art world.


To mark the 50th anniversary of her death there is a flurry of exhibitions, events and new books in her birthplace in Mexico City.

Many of the piercing self-portraits she was famous for have been brought to her former home, the Blue House, for a special exhibition.

Through these self-portraits Kahlo dealt with her crippling accident - which led to her inability to have children - and her tempestuous marriage.

In 1958 Rivera had Kahlo's home turned into a museum - now one of the most visited in Mexico.

Each year, more than 325,000 people tour the house's lush gardens and see the bedroom where Kahlo often painted and where she died at the age of 47.

Visitors can buy everything from religious-style icons featuring Kahlo's image to mouse pads and cigarette holders.

The museum has begun cataloguing more than 26,000 letters and other documents which will eventually be opened to the public.

Artist Kahlo remembered in Mexico
13 Jul 04  |  Entertainment
Kahlo's art was movie inspiration
19 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
Hayek's 'relief' at Frida success
12 Feb 03  |  Entertainment


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