Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907)

Above, Frida Kalho's painting "My Grandparents, My Parents, and I." This painting shows the relationship of Frida as a child to her ancestors; on her father's side, the grandparents were Jakob and Henriette Kaufmann, German-Hungarian Jews. Their son Wilhelm (Frida's father), born in 1872, had immigrated to Mexico and changed his name to Guillermo, but never lost his accent or love of German culture. Her mother, Matilde Calderon, had Latina and native-Mexican roots. Kalho's background and identity were mixed -- she was known for her Latina clothing and expressiveness, while more quietly reading Yiddish poetry and many other types of works.

According to reviewer Leslie Camhi writing in "Beyond Mexicanidad: The Other Roots of Frida Kalho's Identity" --
"The composition, painted in 1936 — during Germany’s implementation of the Nuremberg racial laws — closely follows the Nazi genealogical charts that by then had made their way into Mexico’s German immigrant community. But Kahlo, an ardent anti-fascist, adapted them to her own purposes. Among the work’s other sources are an obstetrical manual found in her library and a book by the Yiddish poet and Mexican immigrant Isaac Berliner, which Rivera had illustrated."
Kalho was far from a realist; this painting mixes surrealism and realism. She was little recognized in her lifetime other than as the wife of Diego Rivera, though surrealist painters André Breton and Marcel Duchamp helped arrange exhibits of her work in the United States and Europe. Her posthumous fame focuses mainly on the self-expressive and surrealist edge of her work, not on the identity part that's exceptionally captured in this genealogical and personally symbolic painting.

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