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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Striking legacy of artist Kahlo
children copy a Frida Kahlo painting at the Tate Modern
Eighty of Kahlo's works form Tate Modern's main summer exhibition
Artist Frida Kahlo is being celebrated at London's Tate Modern gallery in the first major UK exhibition of her work for more than 20 years.

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 worldwide.

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.

In recent years her art has been sought by leading museums, while her dress has inspired fashion designers.

Frida Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Monkey
Madonna lent Kahlo's Self-Portrait with Monkey to the exhibition
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 her 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.

Faith in communism

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.

Frida Kahlo, self-portrait
Kahlo has become a feminist icon around the world
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.

Last year the 50th anniversary of her death was marked by a flurry of exhibitions, events and new books at her Mexico City birthplace.

Many of the piercing self-portraits she was famous for were displayed at her former home, known as the Blue House.

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.

Kahlo memorabilia
Visitors to Kahlo's former home can buy religious-style imagery
Each year, more than 325,000 people tour its lush gardens and see the bedroom where Kahlo often painted and where she died at the age of 47.

Earlier this year a further 180 of Kahlo's possessions were found inside a Blue House bathroom, including photos, shoes, shawls, dresses and a hand-shaped earring believed to have been a gift from Picasso.

The new Tate Modern exhibition collects 80 of Kahlo's works, including still-life paintings and lesser-known watercolours and drawings.

Renowned paintings Self-Portrait with Monkey and My Birth have been lent to the exhibition by pop star Madonna, who described them as two of her favourite works.

The exhibition has been made free to visitors under 18, introducing Kahlo's artistic legacy to an entirely new generation.

Tate Modern's Frida Kahlo exhibition runs from 9 June until 9 October.

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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