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Colección:
Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1
Título: 1998

Introduction

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) has been the subject of numerous recent studies, essays, motion pictures, and traveling art exhibits in America and throughout the world. Her life and work have inspired fellow artists, as well as poets, writers, art historians, and film makers; and several biographies have been published thus far, including a facsimile version of her illustrated diary, which reached bookstores amid positive public reception in 1995.

The following is an annotated bibliography on Frida Kahlo that encompasses books and periodicals published through 1995. It includes English language and foreign language materials. Brief annotations provide summary descriptive statements for those materials that were personally reviewed by the compiler. Excluded from this study are general reference books and textbooks on art or art history that contain minimal discussions on Kahlo. In addition to these resources, the compiler also reviewed bibliographies in the works by Kahlo biographers Herrera and Zamora, among others.

Frida Kahlo’s artistic career began during a lengthy convalescence following a serious bus accident at age 18 in which she sustained fractured bones and vertebrae, as well as abdominal injuries that eventually prevented her from giving birth. Numerous surgical operations subsequently confined her to a wheelchair, and these circumstances forced her to paint on custom-built easels made especially for her by her father, a professional photographer whose love for the visual arts instilled in Frida the desire to pick up a brush and start painting at an early age. In addition, she contracted polio at age six. To Kahlo, her art and her health were intertwined, and many of her paintings provide a visual record of her medical history. According to some art critics, Frida was obsessed with pain and death, and represented both through symbols such as thorn necklaces, open wounds, skulls and skeletons, arrows and nails.

French Surrealist Andre Breton admired her work, describing it as a “ribbon around a bomb.”1 The art literature contains heated debate on whether or not Kahlo was a member of the Surrealist Art Movement of the 1920s and 1930s (Kahlo herself dismissed the claims). To be sure, her paintings are filled with fantastic images: highrise-erupting volcanoes afloat in bath water (What the water gave me), an adult Frida emerging from her mother’s womb at birth (My birth), and a spinal column crumbling inside an open chest (The broken column). These are the building-blocks of Surrealism, and they bear a certain resemblance to the melting clocks of Dali. Kahlo’s self-portraits speak eloquently of the pain, both physical and emotional, she sustained in life, and her canvases provide a graphic record of such anguish.

Although she died in 1954 and was relatively unknown outside of Mexico, Kahlo soon became an icon and the subject of interest in the pages of scholarly and trade journals during the 1970s. The art literature focused on her artistic output, those dramatic self-portraits and paintings done in the style of Mexican retablos. Many of these portraits emphasize her eyebrows and mustache, a trademark of her work. Her role as the longsuffering yet devoted wife of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whom she divorced and remarried, also inspired a generation of young scholars to carry out biographical research that was spurred in part by the forces of the feminist movement and by the sensational real-life love story of Frida and Diego.

Endowed with natural talent and an insatiable lust for life Kahlo charmed and attracted many friends and celebrities. Picasso praised her work and gave her a pair of silver earrings designed by him (depicted in a self portrait painted in 1940). Leon Trotsky, a one-time guest of the Riveras, reportedly had a love affair with Kahlo during his exile in Mexico. She exchanged letters regularly with Ella and Bertram Wolfe. That she dabbled in socialism and may have had extramarital bisexual love affairs only helped to fan the fires of public interest in this otherwise fascinating celebrity.

Today, four decades since her death, Kahlo’s work continues to capture the imagination of art enthusiasts, historians, and biographers. Internet aficionados may now browse a Frida Kahlo web site located at http://www.cascade.net/kahlo.aspx?culture=es&navid=2. This site contains links to biographical information as well as numerous images of her paintings, a list of suggested readings, and teaching guides for school teachers.

While public interest in Latin American art shows no signs of abating, Kahlo’s life and her work serve as the guiding force behind the ever-growing number of plays, films, music scores, operas, ballets, poetry, biographies, art exhibitions, and documentaries that form a part of the Kahlo legacy, as can be seen in the following bibliography, which has been organized into 22 subject categories:

- JOURNAL ARTICLES
- THESES AND DISSERTATIONS
- ART BOOKS
- NEWSPAPER ARTICLES
- BOOKS
- CORRESPONDENCE
- BOOK REVIEWS
- EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
- BOOK CHAPTERS
- EXHIBITION CATALOGS
- EXHIBITION REVIEWS POETRY
- FILMS
- SCREENPLAYS
- FILM REVIEWS
- THEATER REVIEWS
- OPERA REVIEWS
- SOUND RECORDINGS
- PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
- MUSIC REVIEWS
- DANCE REVIEWS
- TELEVISION PROGRAMS