20th century Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is known for her fantastical paintings and self-portraits that portray elements of Mexican folk culture. As a female painter in a male-dominated era, region, and industry, Kahlo’s paintings possess feminist themes of sexual and emotional exploration, and an entirely unique aesthetic. Her work was often overshadowed by that of her husband, Diego Rivera, but she gained increased levels of recognition after her death in 1954, and remains one of the most celebrated Mexican women painters. Here, we explore some of the best places to see Frida Kahlo’s legendary paintings.
The best place to attempt an understanding of Frida Kahlo’s complex life is the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. The museum is located in La Casa Azul (the Blue House), which was Kahlo’s childhood home and residence for the majority of her life. The artworks displayed in La Casa Azul are mostly Kahlo’s lesser-known pieces, many of which she produced later in her life at a time when her Communist leanings were at their strongest. Apart from Kahlo’s artwork, the museum also contains paintings by her iconic husband, as well as objects and letters that belonged to Kahlo.
Self Portrait with Small Monkey | Courtesy of Museo Dolores Olmedo
Located in Frida Kahlo’s hometown of Mexico City, the Museum Dolores Olmedo was founded by Mexican businesswoman Dolores Olmedo, who donated her personal collection. The museum’s collection follows a distinctly Mexican theme, complete with works by Mexican artists from various regions and eras, from pre-colonial indigenous artists to contemporary works. Olmedo has 25 of Kahlo’s paintings, as well as some of her sketches and drawings.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which houses an impressive collection of famous modern and contemporary works, has three of Kahlo’s self portraits. Among them, Fulang-Chang and I depicts Kahlo and her pet monkey Fulang-Chang, whom she loved like a child, as she was unable to have children due to a brutal accident that left her with health problems her whole life. This painting was given by Kahlo to her close friend Mary Sklar, which is why she attached a mirror to it so Mary could be in the frame next to hers.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC holds Kahlo’s Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky. Kahlo painted this portrait during or shortly after her brief affair with Russian communist leader Leon Trotsky. Kahlo was an outspoken Communist who fought for Mexico to adopt this political stance, as she believed that it could bring on a return of the country’s folk culture. Kahlo is prominent as a woman artist in her own right, and is one of the few Mexican artists to be featured in the NMWA.