An exhibition of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the first of its kind in Hungary, will open today in the Hungarian National Gallery on the 111th anniversary of the painter’s birth, mainly based on the collection of Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City. The gallery will be home to the special selection of the masterpieces for around four months.
As the personal life of Kahlo, one of the most defining female artists of the 20th century, and her painting is interlinked, the exhibition not only showcases her pictures in the five sections, but also illustrates her life, and how her accident, emotions, loneliness, miscarriages and love life inspired her. In the last room of the exhibition her heritage as a ‘cultural icon’ of the 21st century is also displayed.
Fifth section of the exhibition, ‘Fridamania’ shows Frida as a cultural icon of the 21st century. (photo: Fanni Kaszás / Hungary Today)
László Baán, director of the National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts stated at the press conference that the Gallery received a “fantastic selection” of pictures from the Olmedo Museum, owner of the biggest and most significant Frida collection. He added that he is sure “the Frida Kahlo exhibition will be the most popular of the year,” as he expects up to 200,000 visitors until its close in early November.
Altogether 35 works by the artist are displayed at the exhibition (26 paintings and nine drawings); this includes self-portraits, the well-known trademarks of Kahlo, as well as her very first painting on canvas, and her lesser known still-lifes. Most of the works are on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, while others are from private collectors.
Considered one of the Mexico's greatest artist, Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyocoan, Mexico City, Mexico. At the age of eighteen, she suffered a tragic bus accident and a steel handrail impaled her through the hip. Her spine and pelvis were fractured and this accident left her in a great deal of pain, both physically and physiologically for the rest of her life. She had to wear full body cast for three months. To kill the time and alleviate the pain, she started painting self-portraits with the help of a mirror on her ceiling a special easel to paint in bed. She created some 200 paintings, drawings and sketches related to her experiences in life, her physical and emotional pain, miscarriages and her turbulent relationship with Diego Rivera.
The exhibition also briefly mentions Frida’s lovers, including her passionate, sometimes contradictory, but inspiring relationship with husband Diego Rivera, who was also one of the most prominent painters in Mexico. She shared the following about their relationship:
I suffered two grave accidents in my life… One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego.
One of another important men in her life was – surprisingly – a Hungarian-born photographer and fencer, Nicholas (Miklós) Muray with whom she had a very special relationship. Their ten-year-long love affair began in 1931, after Muray divorced his second wife, and shortly after Kahlo married Diego Rivera. The relationship survived both Muray’s third marriage and Kahlo’s divorce and remarriage to Rivera in 1940; a year later, they finally broke things off in 1941.
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Muray wished to marry Frida, but after it became clear that Kahlo wanted him as a lover and not as a husband, Muray finally left her. Nevertheless, he and Kahlo remained good friends until her death in 1954. When the painter stayed in New York in 1938, while her work was being exhibited at the Julien Levy Gallery, Muray took portraits of her which later became some of his best-known and most popular work; some of these paintings are also on display in the exhibition. Frida even wrote Muray a letter in Hungarian, which you can see below:
Frida Kahlo’s letter to Nicholas Muray. (photo: Fanni Kaszás / Hungary Today)
According to the painter herself, her affair with Muray is not the only Hungarian connection that she had. She stated several times that she has Hungarian origin and her paternal grandfathers were actually Hungarians. In the last part of her diary, which she kept from the 1940s until her death, she wrote the following:
My paternal grandparents, who were Hungarians, were born in Arad, Hungary, and moved to Germany, when they were already married. It was here, in Baden Baden, that their children, including my father Guillermo Kahlo, were born.
Biographers accepted her statement until the mid 2000s, but in 2005, German historians proved that Guillermo’s ancestors have lived in Germany since the 18th century.
Earlier this week, the arrival of the Frida paintings was broadcast live by the Hungarian National Gallery, accompanied with comments by the exhibition’s curator, Adriána Lantos, found below:
The exhibition is open for visitors from Saturday, 7 July, until 4 November. On Saturday, the Gallery will host a talk with Kahlo’s great-niece and it will be broadcast live on Facebook as well.