The History of a House
La Casa Azul [The Blue House] was the place where Frida Kahlo, the most renowned Latin American artist in the world, came into this world, lived, and took her last breath. The building, which dates to 1904, was not a large-scale construction. Today it has an 800 m2 building surrounded by property measuring 1200 m2. Diego and Frida filled it with color, folk art, and pre-Hispanic pieces to show their admiration for the peoples and cultures of Mexico.
The construction underwent two major modifications. When Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky lived with Diego and Frida in 1937, the property today occupied by the garden was purchased. In 1946 Diego Rivera asked Juan O’Gorman to build Frida’s studio.
The interior of the house has been maintained virtually intact. This was respected by the poet and the couple’s friend, Carlos Pellicer, who designed the museum display for the space after Frida’s death. Therefore, the house and its contents preserve that intimate atmosphere.
The Intense Life of an Artist
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderón was born on July 6, 1907. She was the third of four daughters of Guillermo Kahlo—of Hungarian-German ancestry—and Matilde Calderón—originally from Oaxaca. Since she was a child, Frida was faced with sickness. At the age of six, she was struck with polio, but that did not stop her from eventually going to high school at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria and to dream of devoting her life to Medicine. However, when she was 18, on September 17, 1925, she was in a tragic accident. The bus she was riding was hit by a tram. Badly injured and immobile for the first few months of her recovery, Frida took up painting.
She was in contact with numerous artists, including painter Diego Rivera, whom she wed in 1929. The couple lived in different places in Mexico and in other cities in the United States. After ten years of marriage, the couple divorced, but a year later, in 1940, Frida and the muralist remarried.
Kahlo was a member of the Mexican Communist Party and an instructor at the National School of Painting and Sculpture known as La Esmeralda, where she trained a group of young painters who were referred to as “Los Fridos” in her honor. The artist held several exhibitions of her work, including those in New York (1938), Paris (1939), and Mexico City in the gallery of Lola Álvarez Bravo (1953).
A House that Speaks
Following Diego’s wishes, the Casa Azul was turned into a museum in 1958, four years after Frida Kahlo died. Currently it is among the most well attended museums in the country; every month it receives some twenty-three thousand visitors.
Each corner of the house bears witness to the things that Frida loved and the sources of her inspiration. The museum halls display a facsimile of her diary, as well as some of her best known paintings: Long Live Life (1954), Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick (1954), Frida and the Caesarean (1931), and the polemic Still life (1942). Within the walls of the house are canvases by the couple’s painter friends and contemporaries, and the work Rivera did at the Academy of San Carlos and during his stay in Paris.
The museum also houses her collection of clothing and jewelry that reflect Frida’s taste for indigenous garb and her admiration for Pre-Columbian cultures, so much a part of the image that marked her distinctive personality. The bedroom that Frida used in the daytime has the bed with the mirror on the canopy that her mother had made after the accident. Her brushes, books, and easel, a gift from Nelson Rockefeller, are still in the studio. The night bedroom houses her butterfly collection, a gift from Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi, in addition to the portrait that her friend and lover, photographer Nickolas Muray, did of her.