Frida Kahlo in the Drents Museum: ‘Icon that was way ahead of her time’

The continuous eyebrows, the colorful Mexican clothes and the monkey on her shoulder. Mexican artist Frida Kahlo has become a global icon nearly seventy years after her death. The Drents Museum in Assen brings together the two most important Frida Kahlo collections from Mexico: not only her art, but also personal items such as a prosthetic leg and her uneven shoes are now coming together.

Perhaps Kahlo’s appearance is even more distinctive than her work. From her self-portraits she looks intently at the visitor, the proud gaze bridged by the famous continuous eyebrow. “Frida Kahlo even drew her continuous eyebrows with a black eye pencil that is here in the display case,” says curator Annemiek Rens.

In addition to works of art, personal belongings such as clothing, jewelry, medicines and medical devices such as corsets are on display. “With Kahlo, life and art are inseparable. They flow into each other.”

Museo Dolores Olmedo

The Mexican Perla Labarthe is adamant about it: for her Frida Kahlo is an icon. As director of museum frida Kahlo in Mexico City, located in the original home of Frida Kahlo, she loaned a large part of the unique collection to the Drents Museum, which can be seen together with the collection of Museo Dolores Olmedo. In Assen she looks around with satisfaction, glad that the collection can now also be seen in the Netherlands. “Kahlo was way ahead of her time and determined her own identity. She was self-taught and eager to learn.”

Childhood polio left Kahlo’s one leg shorter and thinner than her other leg. At eighteen she was on a bus that was hit by a tram. An iron rod pierced her body and the damage was extensive. She underwent some thirty surgeries in her life, wore corsets and was in a lot of pain all her life.

Still, you could argue that without the accident, Kahlo, who intended to become a doctor, would never have become the artist we know today. Bound to bed and limited in her movements, Frida started painting on the advice of her father. He had a special easel designed and installed a mirror above her bed. Rens: “As a subject she was always closest to her own model. Moreover, art was a way to express her pain on the canvas. A famous self-portrait is ‘Self-portrait with monkey’.”

Kahlo with her special easel in bed

Museo Dolores Olmedo

The choice to show her work to the world-famous artist Diego Rivera was life-changing. Within a year she married him. Labarthe: “They stimulated each other enormously to make interesting art. They were a rather intense couple.” Her health problems didn’t stop Frida from having a turbulent love life.

The broken column

A key piece in Kahlo’s work is ‘The broken column’, in which she depicts herself naked with one of those corsets and a broken column as a backbone. It almost physically hurts to look at it. Although curator Rens has been familiar with Kahlo’s work for years, once this painting hung in the room, together with the corset in question, she was very impressed.

The Broken Pillar (1944)

Museo Dolores Olmedo

“She literally exposes herself to us and shows that her spine and her body are crumbling. The tears are streaming down her cheeks and at the same time you also see an incredibly powerful person with an unmoved strong look. It is special how she pain, combines with strength.”


The powerful Frida Kahlo is often labeled a feminist, activist and also queer, as she was known to have relationships with both men and women in addition to her marriage to her great love Diego Rivera. But program maker Cathelijne Blok does not want to go that far, “because then we might give her properties a label based on current events.”

Blok made a podcast about the artist, who in her opinion was way ahead of her time, also in her choice of subject. “I think it’s very special that she is in the painting Henry Ford hospital (1932) so openly paints about her miscarriage and shares her pain.” Frida Kahlo wanted to have children, but a pregnancy would endanger her health too much.

Henry Ford Hospital (1932)

Museo Dolores Olmedo

“It is of course idiotic that so many years after Frida’s work there is still a taboo on subjects such as abortion, miscarriage, wanting to become pregnant and who you fall for. Frida Kahlo has really fought to make that public with her art. “

Perla Labarthe also doubts whether Frida Kahlo had called herself a feminist. “She tried to be herself, something you might call a feminist. She decided what life she wanted to live. She was able to translate her physical limitations and her pain into beautiful works of art. great source of inspiration.”

Viva la Frida! can be seen from 8 October in the Drents Museum in Assen.

Frida Kahlo in the Drents Museum: ‘Icon that was way ahead of her time’
Source link Frida Kahlo in the Drents Museum: ‘Icon that was way ahead of her time’

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