As one of the inspiring stories in our Little Guides to Great Lives (our small but in-depth biographies about the lives of some of history’s most inspiring and talented people), we thought that Frida Kahlo deserved much more of the limelight…
Frida Kahlo is one of those names – and one of those faces – that seems suddenly instantly recognisable: her distinctive flower crowns, the embroidered, square-cut huipil tops and her commanding brow line give her a powerful personal identity that carries into her highly personal artwork. This hasn’t always been true – for much of her legacy has only relatively recently been recognised, in the past her achievements being inextricably linked to that of her husband, Diego Rivera.
Now she is being celebrated in her own right, and our Little Guide gives a little glimpse into who she was, what her achievements were, how she fought for and overcame her personal adversities. Her incredible creativity and artistic vision has helped shape the world we live in today, and will resonate with young readers as they decide who they are, or who they might be.
(You can read more about our Little Guides, Frida and a special challenge for young readers that will bring out their own creativity and help them to forge a personal creative identity here)
We were so delighted when we discovered that our publication of Frida’s story was going to coincide with a major exhibition at one of our favourite London museums – the V&A.
Making Herself Up is a treasure trove of artworks, sketches, personal correspondence, her medical equipment (including an incredible personally designed leg brace), random personal and artistic items and clothes, all saved from Frida’s family home in Mexico City, Casa Azul (The Blue House) – it is an intimate insight into one woman and an artistic vision that was a lifelong passion and art lived as life in its entirety. It is a life laid bare and is fascinating to see.
Bringing her own story so clearly and irrefutably into her art was groundbreaking for a woman of her time – accepting and celebrating her different abilities, the challenges that life has thrown at her, weaving in her past (and that of her family) with Mexican heritage and religious influences , her rejection of European beauty standards, and forcefully weaving in her emotions, her relationships, and the ongoing process of forging her own identity.
The exhibition sings when her paintings are shown within the greater context of her life – her skill as a chronicler of her life’s journey and her pain, is a truly unique experience.
While we can’t show pictures from inside the exhibition (photography is of course banned), we can share the below taken from some of the many reviews of the exhibition itself. There are lots of opportunities to create a wider learning experience around Making Herself Up and our favourites are below:
- There’s a great teacher's resource here.
- There are lots of interesting activities for families, from the chance to create a self-portrait, make Frida-inspired paper flowers and create a portrait with all the family.
- And for adults, there's a much more involved short course on gouache portraiture that we might be saving up for…
This beautiful exhibition, and our enlightening and inspiring Little Guides to Great Lives: Frida Kahlo is the perfect opportunity to open a young (or not so young!) readers eyes to the power of personal expression, and forging your own unique identity.