Book Club – Frida Kahlo

30 Jan

Our January Book Club group read “Frida: a Biography of Frida Kahlo” by Hayden Herrera. Anyone who loves art or follows art in any way should know who Frida Kahlo is.

Frida by Hayden Herrera

Frida by Hayden Herrera

Frida Kahlo not only was a gifted artist, but her life was incredibly interesting as well. She is perhaps best known for the huge number of self-portraits that she painted over her life. While many of us are afraid of doing a self-portrait, Frida embraced it and in fact nearly all of her art could be said to be self-portraits. Her work is fabulously detailed and full of layers and layers of meaning and symbolism. This author really looked at her art and what it might have meant, given what was going on in her life at the time. There is a lot of information in this book about Frida’s art work. Some of the explanations of her work made me go back and look at the art again, as I missed so much of the imagery and details the first time around. In fact, each time I look at one of the paintings I see something new. Another aspect of the art catches my attention. Is that what makes great art?

But much of the book was devoted to Frida’s life, from birth to death. Actually before birth as there is a lot of information about her parents and who they were as well. While we all like to think we are unique individuals and our own people – the fact is that our families and their histories also go into making us who we are. The people we meet along the way and interact with also play a huge part in who we are. Frida is no different. Her family and friends are hugely influential in her life story.

So much of Frida’s life and her personality (and her paintings) were influenced by her incredible amount of health issues. From her childhood bout of polio to a devastating accident when she was a young teenager that caused irreparable damage to instances of gangrene and infections and poorly executed surgeries – all affecting her greatly. She spent an incredible amount of her life in hospitals, taking medicines, visiting doctors, having surgeries, etc. She was in a constant state of pain. Which of course influenced her art.

Much of her fame came initially from her being married to Diego Rivera (a famous Mexican muralist of the time). Not only was Diego much older than her, and a notorious womanizer, he was a BIG personality and drew a crowd wherever he went. Frida was just his young wife for a time, but it wasn’t long before her own BIG personality showed up.  Diego was a huge fan of Frida’s art and was always promoting her to people he knew and encouraging her to keep painting. Their art was so vastly different from each other’s that there was no direct competition with each other and perhaps that helped each of them be so supportive of the other one.  While their relationship was often erratic and volatile, they clearly loved each other (they actually were married, eventually divorced, and remarried).

Of course, I could write pages and pages about Frida and the book, but I won’t. Instead I will encourage you to get the book and read it and enjoy it. This book has lots of personal details, letters, stories, photos, and paintings from Frida’s life. It is well worth the read and you will come away with a better appreciation of who she was and what her art was all about.

Our book club had fun discussing the book and we especially enjoyed learning more about the personal life of Frida Kahlo, which was incredibly interesting. If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about what you thought.


Next month’s book club selection is “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri.


Let Your Inner Artist out to Play

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4 Responses to “Book Club – Frida Kahlo”

  1. Dora evatt February 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Frida is one of my favorites , glad you showed interest in her. Thanks


    • Deb Prewitt February 1, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

      She is such a fascinating person along with being an amazing artist. I really enjoyed reading the book.


  2. lynnk50 February 12, 2015 at 3:14 am #

    Finally getting a chance to post after the past couple very stressful, hectic weeks! I enjoyed this book. Herrera gave so much detailed information about Frida. Really felt like I got to know her. I can really understand all the pain she lived with, since I’ve had to deal with my own chronic pain since a car accident over 30 years ago. It definitely changed the direction of my life, but I’ve learned so many things and met people I would’ve never met and am doing things I probably wouldn’t have done with out having that accident. I’ve learned to see the positive in things, when life throws us curveballs! I posted my comments at:


    • Deb Prewitt February 12, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      Dealing with years of pain can be difficult, but a lot of people I know who have chronic pain don’t let it ruin their lives. They accept that it is part of who they are and keep on going forward. I learned a lot about Frida that I wasn’t aware of before, which gave me new understanding of her art and her life.


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