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"Through her art, Herrera writes, Kahlo made of herself both performer and icon. Through this long overdue biography, Kahlo has also, finally, been made fully human." — San Francisco Chronicle Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy cahuman." — San "Through her art, Herrera writes, Kahlo made of herself both performer and icon. Through this long overdue biography, Kahlo has also, finally, been made fully human." — San Francisco Chronicle Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy came straight from her own experiences: her childhood near Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution; a devastating accident at age eighteen that left her crippled and unable to bear children; her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and intermittent love affairs with men as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Leon Trotsky; her association with the Communist Party; her absorption in Mexican folklore and culture; and her dramatic love of spectacle. Here is the tumultuous life of an extraordinary twentieth-century woman -- with illustrations as rich and haunting as her legend.


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"Through her art, Herrera writes, Kahlo made of herself both performer and icon. Through this long overdue biography, Kahlo has also, finally, been made fully human." — San Francisco Chronicle Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy cahuman." — San "Through her art, Herrera writes, Kahlo made of herself both performer and icon. Through this long overdue biography, Kahlo has also, finally, been made fully human." — San Francisco Chronicle Hailed by readers and critics across the country, this engrossing biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo reveals a woman of extreme magnetism and originality, an artist whose sensual vibrancy came straight from her own experiences: her childhood near Mexico City during the Mexican Revolution; a devastating accident at age eighteen that left her crippled and unable to bear children; her tempestuous marriage to muralist Diego Rivera and intermittent love affairs with men as diverse as Isamu Noguchi and Leon Trotsky; her association with the Communist Party; her absorption in Mexican folklore and culture; and her dramatic love of spectacle. Here is the tumultuous life of an extraordinary twentieth-century woman -- with illustrations as rich and haunting as her legend.

30 review for Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo

  1. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Have not read this book- I have no reason not think it is good. Just wanted to comment on the cover. I always hate buying an edition of a book with movie art on the front. Nothing ruins a copy of a Lord of the Rings book like stills from the films on the cover. Carrying that around just makes you look like such a joiner. I know-- it is big money marketing, and there is no stopping it. But I gotta say, with an artist like Frida Kahlo, who painted so many incredible self protraits, it is Have not read this book- I have no reason not think it is good. Just wanted to comment on the cover. I always hate buying an edition of a book with movie art on the front. Nothing ruins a copy of a Lord of the Rings book like stills from the films on the cover. Carrying that around just makes you look like such a joiner. I know-- it is big money marketing, and there is no stopping it. But I gotta say, with an artist like Frida Kahlo, who painted so many incredible self protraits, it is just so lame to have a photo of Salma Hayek on the cover. When I saw this book I had to laugh. If I ever buy this, you can bet it will have artwork by the actual artist on the front.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is not an accurate portrayal of Frida's life. She was more of a revolutionary than this book makes her out to be. She was also a gender-bending feminist, and a brilliant painter. Herrera makes her out to be a Diego obsessed, pain obsessed sack of potatoes, and i'm not buying it. Herrera also infers several things to be true from Frida's paintings. She frequently ignores literal translations from paintings including text painted in that reveals the meaning completely on it's own. I am very s This is not an accurate portrayal of Frida's life. She was more of a revolutionary than this book makes her out to be. She was also a gender-bending feminist, and a brilliant painter. Herrera makes her out to be a Diego obsessed, pain obsessed sack of potatoes, and i'm not buying it. Herrera also infers several things to be true from Frida's paintings. She frequently ignores literal translations from paintings including text painted in that reveals the meaning completely on it's own. I am very sorry that this Kahlo has been subjected to pop culture by Herrera, and suggest looking elsewhere to find accurate information! Suggested Reading: Devouring Frida by: Margaret A. Lindauer

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I am a little in love with Frida Kahlo, or perhaps I should say intensely so. Surely no-one can read this superb biography without being spun head over heels. Frida Kahlo was truly extraordinary. Vast beauty, intelligence, commitments, loyalties...... and most of all - vast creativity and artistic talent. On top of this, the book also contains a formidable and passionate love story, and an inspiring story about her battles against terrible physical injuries . Frida was a gargantuan and lion-he I am a little in love with Frida Kahlo, or perhaps I should say intensely so. Surely no-one can read this superb biography without being spun head over heels. Frida Kahlo was truly extraordinary. Vast beauty, intelligence, commitments, loyalties...... and most of all - vast creativity and artistic talent. On top of this, the book also contains a formidable and passionate love story, and an inspiring story about her battles against terrible physical injuries . Frida was a gargantuan and lion-hearted character, and she strode the world with flamboyant and anarchic exuberance. The art historian Parker Lesley described her thus: "Everyone stared at Frida, who wore her Tehuana dress and all Diego's gold jewellery, and clanked like a knight in armour. She had the Byzantine opulence of the Empress Theodora, a combination of barbarism and elegance. She had two gold incisors and when she was all gussied up she would take off the plain gold caps, and put on gold caps with rose diamonds in front, so that her smile really sparkled." Her love affair and two marriages with Diego Rivera were tempestuous. Both of them took lots of lovers, yet both were intensely jealous of one another's philandering. Under the emotional ructions there was however a deep love and friendship between them, and a huge respect for one another's work as artists. Both of them also shared a great commitment to Mexico, to the Communist Party, and had great loyalties to the ordinary working people of Mexico. Frida's artwork is intensely personal. It is a visual diary of her life and feelings. And those feelings were often traumatic. Her life was very difficult, due to her injuries - which caused her massive problems throughout her life. In the early days only close personal friends would buy her paintings - they were just too raw, and often violent, for most people to be attracted to them. Later on, as she gained fame and respect, her audience widened. I loved this book for the breadth it gives us of Frida's life, not only of the highlights, but of the thousands of little pleasures she shared with Diego and other friends. She enjoyed a life that was wonderfully rich and rewarding in many ways. Seemingly living each moment with passion, humour and bravado. Another great aspect of this book is the insight it gives us into her creative processes. She is one of those people for whom her life was her art. Herewith a prose/poem she wrote about colour, it gives a small taste of the originality of her thinking: (view spoiler)[ GREEN: warm and good light REDDISH PURPLE: Aztec. Tlapali (Aztec word for "colour" used for painting and drawing). Old blood of prickly pear. The most alive and oldest. BROWN: colour of mole, of the leaf that goes. Earth. YELLOW: madness, sickness, fear. Part of the sun and of joy. COBALT BLUE: electricity and purity. Love. BLACK: nothing is black, really nothing LEAF GREEN: leaves, sadness, science. The whole of Germany is this colour. GREENISH YELLOW: more madness and mystery. All the phantoms wear suits of this color....or at least underclothes. DARK GREEN: colour of bad news and good business. NAVY BLUE: distance. Also tenderness can be of this blue. MAGENTA: Blood? Well, who knows! (hide spoiler)] All in all this was a wonderful book about a unique women. I read it in tandem with with the Taschen art book, Frida Kahlo: 1907-1954 Pain and Passion, by Andrea Kettenmann, which gave me access to good reproductions of the pictures being discussed. (There are pix in the book, but given the limitations of the format they are definitely underwhelming. This book really needs to be read with an art book with good reproductions of Frida's work.) Highly recommended.... ------------------------- All illustrations have been photographed from the book Kahlo, by Andrea Kettenmann.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    This is a long book of a rather short life: Frida Kahlo was injured in a traffic incident when she was eighteen and spent the rest of her life in pain and 'invalidism'. Regardless of this, her persona was so vibrant and vital that her magnetism outshone her vivid, charismatic work, and if she had lived thirty more years the book would doubtless be three hundred pages longer. But it would have been completely different. Frida would probably not have begun to paint if she had not been immobilised for many mo This is a long book of a rather short life: Frida Kahlo was injured in a traffic incident when she was eighteen and spent the rest of her life in pain and 'invalidism'. Regardless of this, her persona was so vibrant and vital that her magnetism outshone her vivid, charismatic work, and if she had lived thirty more years the book would doubtless be three hundred pages longer. But it would have been completely different. Frida would probably not have begun to paint if she had not been immobilised for many months after her accident, and if she had not been made unable to have children, she would have had them. And so she would not have painted her physical pain and her frustrated longing. I enjoyed Herrera's descriptive interpretations of Frida's paintings and only rarely felt she had gone too far in taking them literally or carrying her own idea further than was justified. I enjoyed her rejection of the inclusion of Frida in the Surrealist movement, though perhaps her scorn of the latter is too strong and relies on some misunderstanding of surrealism as practised by at least some of its proponents. Herrera underlines the cultural and individual specificity of Frida's work and the personal authenticity of its non-realistic elements. Her work perhaps owes something to Mexical socialist realism and Latin@ Catholic iconography (the 'naive' ex-voto tradition is clearly an influence) but not to self-indulgent European navel-gazing. Herrera explains why Surrealism gained little traction in Mexico:Mexico had its own magic and myths and did not need foreign notions of fantasy. The self-conscious search for subconscious truths that may have provided European Surrealists with some release from the confines of their rational world and ordinary bourgeois life offered little enchantment in a country where reality and dreams are perceived to merge and miracles are thought to be daily occurrencesI also loved her eloquent writing about Frida's dress and 'costume', which was obviously a hugely important part of her process of identity. Although Frida's maternal grandfather was indigenous, she had a middle class settler Christian upbringing and dressing in tehuana clothing was a deliberate, political, and perhaps disingenuous act of appropriation, motivated, it seems, by Communist anti-imperialism, aesthetic appreciation and the desire to hide her right leg, which was damaged by childhood polio and became increasingly problematic, probably as her injuries put an end to her therapeutic habits of exercise. It's always hard not to see the life of an artist primarily through their work, but according to Herrera, in many periods of her life Frida painted little. She writes that Frida's relationship to Diego was often more important to her sense of herself than her art. Some of Frida's writing supports this, but I am uncomfortable with Herrera's adhesion to the idea, especially as Frida often complained about Diego too. She had many correspondants, friends, and semi-secret lovers, and organised Diego's life and finances as well as her own. While he floundered without her, however inattentive he could be (apparently he lived for his work; unlike Frida he seems to have painted compulsively from childhood), she seems entirely capable of independence. Diego was always unfaithful, but while he apparently tolerated Frida's lesbian affairs, he seemed to be typically macho about her heterosexual ones, which she kept secret. Herrera gives far more attention to these associations with men, although affairs and intimacies with women may have been at least as important to Frida. But perhaps she did not write to her women lovers, or the letters have not come into the public realm, as those written to men have. I usually feel that biographers of bisexual women are annoyingly dismissive in this way: lesbian affairs do not count, just as they didn't for Diego. Frida and Diego were ardent Communists, and as world communism shifted and strained their allegiances were juggled too. But they retained the original impulse towards the rights of the people, towards leftist revolutionary and anti-imperialist politics. Frida was frustrated that she could not make political art, but Diego reassured her that her work was a worthwhile political contribution. Later in life, she became a teacher and led students in creating murals for a pulqueria and a women's laundry. It was fun to read her scornful opinion of European bohemians who 'did no work' and spent all their time in idle talk. A message to Euro-USian hipsters not to co-opt Frida as 'one of us'.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Frida Kahlo was such a complex indiviual, unfortunately Hayden Herrera simplifies this multifaceted artists life and passions. Like many Kahlo scholars in the 1970's she bases many of her ideas on Kahlo's work on gender stereotypes and assumptions. Read "Devouring Frida" if you are interested in a REAL analysis of the artist's life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bloodorange

    I'm probably the last person under the sun not to have seen Julie Taymor's Frida, based on this biography (which is changing as I write these words). I find rating biographies difficult - do I rate a book, or a life? - but I think I can safely give it 3.5-4 stars, with the disclaimer that my ratings are more lenient for biographies than for fiction. The description of the birth of creativity, and subsequent relations between Frida and Diego, and other people in her life, were interesting, thorough, an I'm probably the last person under the sun not to have seen Julie Taymor's Frida, based on this biography (which is changing as I write these words). I find rating biographies difficult - do I rate a book, or a life? - but I think I can safely give it 3.5-4 stars, with the disclaimer that my ratings are more lenient for biographies than for fiction. The description of the birth of creativity, and subsequent relations between Frida and Diego, and other people in her life, were interesting, thorough, and touching. The image of Frida and Diego locating each other in the crowd by means of whistling The International will stay with me. This book has its faults, pointed out by other reviewers, but I find them minor, not enough to spoil my reading experience.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Curie

    Frida Kahlo. To most people, she is the Mexican painter with the intense stare and dominant brows, known for her self-portraits. At the same time she has become an icon. I've seen people drinking out of Frida-cups, wearing Frida-socks and getting Frida-tattoos. This biography really made me understand what it was that made this woman so magnetising. A woman in love with life Frida never had it easy. She grew up during the Mexican Revolution, which certainly wasn't the easiest time to be a Mexican. At the age o Frida Kahlo. To most people, she is the Mexican painter with the intense stare and dominant brows, known for her self-portraits. At the same time she has become an icon. I've seen people drinking out of Frida-cups, wearing Frida-socks and getting Frida-tattoos. This biography really made me understand what it was that made this woman so magnetising. A woman in love with life Frida never had it easy. She grew up during the Mexican Revolution, which certainly wasn't the easiest time to be a Mexican. At the age of eighteen, she became victim to a devastating accident, which left her crippled and unable to bear children. This affected her whole life, during which she consistently had to fight physical health issues. And still she was in love with living. She was a surprising, mesmerising and slightly macabre woman who couldn't help but to enchant those around her. She inspired with her radical and vibrant art as well as with her way of living, never afraid of showing her feelings or being kind those around her. "You know why they do all these crazy things? Because they don't have any personality. They must make it up. You are going to be an artist because you have talent. You are an artist, so you don't have to do all these things." A marriage to define The book focusses strongly on her relationship with Diego Rivera, a muralist much older whom she married at a young age. Neither can be described as faithful to each other in the most traditional sense - they both had affairs and other lovers - and yet they could not live without each other. Their relationship of nearly twenty-five years went through many ups and downs and Herrera describes those very well. To be fair, I found these parts of the book slightly repetitive and too long, as it shifted the focus from Frida the individual to Frida the wife, which is where I get to my criticism of this biography. A revolutionary It's easy to forget that Frida Kahlo lived in a time in which it wasn't common for woman to have a loud and outspoken voice. She, however, did. I felt like this book cut short on that fact a lot, making her seem less like the revolutionary she was. While many describe Hayden Herrera's style of writing as clear and accurate, I found it to be prosaic und even arbitrary at times. She analyses many of her paintings, trying to give them a context and deducting what can be learned from them about the life Frida Kahlo led, yet on various occasions I wasn't quite sure where her claims were coming from. Some passages felt clumsy to me, when she calls the painting My Birth "one of the most awesome images of childbirth" only to then note how dead the child looks. On other occasions paintings or photographs are described in longwinded texts which weren't included in the book, which was annoying, because I would have rather liked to see the images myself than solely relying on somebody else's interpretation of them. I also would have liked to hear more about her own views and thoughts, especially in relation to politics and Communism. After all, Kahlo felt most alive when she was able to talk for herself: "Let's go to work; I will be your so-called teacher, I am not any such thing, I only want to be your friend, I have never been a painting teacher, nor do I think I ever will be, since I am always learning. I hope you will not be bored with me, and when I seem to bore you, I ask you, please, not to keep quiet, all right?" To sum up, I think Frida Kahlo was a fascinating and eclectic woman, more so than this biography implies. It's a nice read and gives a wonderful insight into her life and times, yet I was left feeling unsatisfied on various occasions throughout the book, which keeps me from calling this a truly great biography.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    My rating reflects the author's efforts and not the interest of the subject. Rated on Kalo, I would have awarded a rating of five, because Frida Kalo is an intriguing and compelling subject, whose life and art are inseparable and awe-inspiring. I became interested in Kalo when I attended the San Francisco La Raza Homage to Frida Kalo (1978); her work grabbed my gut. Prints of her paintings The Little Deer and her self portraits with monkeys and with Diego Rivera looking out from her third eye hu My rating reflects the author's efforts and not the interest of the subject. Rated on Kalo, I would have awarded a rating of five, because Frida Kalo is an intriguing and compelling subject, whose life and art are inseparable and awe-inspiring. I became interested in Kalo when I attended the San Francisco La Raza Homage to Frida Kalo (1978); her work grabbed my gut. Prints of her paintings The Little Deer and her self portraits with monkeys and with Diego Rivera looking out from her third eye hung in my apartments and are still tucked into my old journals from that time in my life. Kalo was one of my beacons of light as I made my own way in life as an independent, quirky, and stubborn woman, hoping I could be half as brave in my life as she was in hers. I found this particular biography a little frustrating in that the plates and photos were not well-positioned in the book, so I kept losing my place as I tried to read and refer to the visuals. The author, I think, may have glossed over important aspects of the artist's political life and focussed incessantly on her relationship with Rivera. And, most unfortunately, the book's cover is a photogrpah not of the subject, but of Salma Hayak as Frida Kalo in a movie.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    In Depth, thorough and intriguing. However, I did not always agree with the author's interpretive nature of assuming to understand what Frida was feeling or thinking, and forcing these interpretations by consistent repetition.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Addicted to Books

    5 Mesmerizing Well researched- the best biography I have ever read stars! This is the best biography I believe ever to be written or this is the best biography I have ever read. I have never cared much about Frida Kahlo except the movie which I had been planning to watch for the past 5 years but never did. But now I really want to watch the movie. I saw this book laying next to Marlon by Peter Manso in the library and I have been reading it during the lunch and tea breaks and I finall 5 Mesmerizing Well researched- the best biography I have ever read stars! This is the best biography I believe ever to be written or this is the best biography I have ever read. I have never cared much about Frida Kahlo except the movie which I had been planning to watch for the past 5 years but never did. But now I really want to watch the movie. I saw this book laying next to Marlon by Peter Manso in the library and I have been reading it during the lunch and tea breaks and I finally finished it yesterday. For a biography to work this well, the subject has to be interesting and the biographer or writer's skills have to be really good to bring out the essence of the subject and Hayden Herrera did such an amazing job. This is one of those books which will never be released on Kindle(along with catcher in the rye) Review coming up.........although I am at a loss as how to review this book that made me so feel so much and connected with me on so many levels and yet it falls under non fiction!

  11. 5 out of 5

    TBV

    “The painter, poet, and prominent critic José Moreno Villa struck in Novedades the note that would resound over the years: “ It is impossible,” he wrote, “to separate the life and work of this singular person. Her paintings are her biography.”” Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón (1907-1954) was a medical student when, at the age of eighteen, she was critically injured in a bus accident. “Before that we had taken another bus, but since I had lost a little parasol, we got off to look for it and that was how we happened to “The painter, poet, and prominent critic José Moreno Villa struck in Novedades the note that would resound over the years: “ It is impossible,” he wrote, “to separate the life and work of this singular person. Her paintings are her biography.”” Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón (1907-1954) was a medical student when, at the age of eighteen, she was critically injured in a bus accident. “Before that we had taken another bus, but since I had lost a little parasol, we got off to look for it and that was how we happened to get on the bus that destroyed me." Her injuries were horrific: “Her spinal column was broken in three places in the lumbar region. Her collarbone was broken, and her third and fourth ribs. Her right leg had eleven fractures and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. Her left shoulder was out of joint, her pelvis broken in three places. The steel handrail had literally skewered her body at the level of the abdomen; entering on the left side, it had come out through the vagina. “ I lost my virginity,” she said.” Prior to the accident she had already been a victim to polio. She suffered many illnesses and ghastly treatments; “at least thirty-two surgical operations” and twenty-eight special corsets, one of which was made of steel. There were times when she survived on alcohol and pain killers. In 1929 she married the very famous artist Diego Rivera. “The Riveras had much in common: humor, intelligence, Mexicanism, social conscience, a bohemian approach to life.” But the marriage was not plain sailing as Diego was an inveterate womaniser (he even had an affair with her younger sister) and Frida retaliated by having affairs with people of both sexes. The Riveras even divorced at one stage, but later remarried. Frida maintained that she loved him and that “”For me he is my child, my son, my mother, my father, my lover, my husband, my everything.”” However, these calamities did not crush her spirit. Dressed in long flamboyant native Mexican costumes with heavy jewellery and elaborate hairstyles she dazzled those around her with her wit, her sense of fun and her outspokenness. “She had the Byzantine opulence of the Empress Theodora, a combination of barbarism and elegance. She had two gold incisors and when she was all gussied up she would take off the plain gold caps and put on gold caps with rose diamonds in front, so that her smile really sparkled.” When her leg was eventually amputated she ordered red leather boots with gold decorations and little bells and “…danced the jarabe tapatío with her wooden leg.” When she was ill in bed she kept her visitors amused and they came away feeling uplifted. When she had to remain flat on her back she continued painting using a special easel that attached to the bed. It is through her art that she expressed what she really thought and felt. She repeatedly painted herself, and it is in these pictures that she reveals the 'other' Frida, the Frida who suffered both physical and mental pain, the Frida who was desperate to have a child, the Frida who at times was depressed and tried to commit suicide. But to the world around her she was the vivacious Frida who loved to joke. In her last days she insisted, against doctors' orders, in attending the opening night of a solo exhibition of her art, and she arrived on a stretcher in great pomp and ceremony and dressed to the nines. Author and art historian Hayden Herrera does an excellent job of analysing Frida's paintings. The book is very well illustrated and documented. Leon Trotsky and his wife lived with the Riveras for a period of time, and Frida actually had an affair with Trotsky. The author briefly recounts this history, but the focus quite rightly remains on Frida. Frida's last painting was of a watermelon: ”Eight days before she died, when her hours were darkened by calamity, Frida Kahlo dipped her brush in blood-red paint and inscribed her name plus the date and the place of execution, Coyoacán, Mexico, across the crimson pulp of the foremost slice. Then, in large capital letters, she wrote her final salute to life: VIVA LA VIDA.” ### Frida on her art: “”I never knew I was a Surrealist,” she had said, “till André Breton came to Mexico and told me I was. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint always whatever passes through my head, without any other consideration.”" - Diego maintained that she was a 'realist'. ""I paint myself because I am so often alone,” Frida said, “because I am the subject I know best.”" ""Since the accident changed my path, and many other things,” she told Antonio Rodríguez, “I was not permitted to fulfill the desires which the whole world considers normal, and nothing seemed more natural than to paint what had not been fulfilled. . . . my paintings are . . . the most frank expression of myself, without taking into consideration either judgments or prejudices of anyone.”” ### Gallery: Self Portrait with Necklace of Thorns The Wounded Deer Diego and I ### There is also a film based on this book with Salma Hayek portraying the role of Frida..

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I agree as some reviewers have noted that this book is a bit light on Frida's feminist and revolutionary traits, buys into gender stereotytpes somewhat and so misses the complexity of her character and that some of the art analysis given seems to contradict what Frida herself has written on paintings or just seem very unlikely and a bit of a stretch. One reviewer wrote: 'Herrera makes her out to be a Diego obsessed, pain obsessed sack of shit, and I'm not buying it.' There I agree as some reviewers have noted that this book is a bit light on Frida's feminist and revolutionary traits, buys into gender stereotytpes somewhat and so misses the complexity of her character and that some of the art analysis given seems to contradict what Frida herself has written on paintings or just seem very unlikely and a bit of a stretch. One reviewer wrote: 'Herrera makes her out to be a Diego obsessed, pain obsessed sack of shit, and I'm not buying it.' There is a lot of careful and meticulous research in this book and the author has done a amazing job putting so much information together in such a readable format. But several times in the book the author concludes things about Frida's motivations and attitudes to her illnesses struck me as perhaps quite unfair and unlikely. The conclusions didn't seem to match the evidence. Frida's letters to her doctor friend, several of which are included in the book, made it very clear that she was anxious to have more surgery only if it'd really help her and if he thought it was a good idea. To me she was very clearly motivated only by a desire to have the best health when she decided on a surgery or decided against it. She really wanted this doctor's unbiased opinion either way. She was certainly not biased towards surgery and didn't take it lightly, as she knew what a cost it'd have during recovery. Yet Harrera writes that Frida's surgeries were often very 'conveniently' timed with periods where Diego's attention may have been straying from Frida. She also comments in a quite judgemental way that many of her surgeries were 'unnecessary.' Clearly Frida had a strong link with Diego, maybe even an obsession, but I think it is going too far to say she had unnecessary surgeries so as to elicit his attention. She was so much more of a complex and intelligent person than that and he was not the only motivation for her actions. It is easy to write now that some of those surgeries were unnecessary (and they were)...but then, many treatments those of us that are ill try are unnecessary. The point is that you don't know that until afterwards! Having something to hang your quiet backgound-rumble-of-hope on - a new surgery, or diet etc. - is a huge part of what keeps you going when you are ill. What keeps you from giving up and lets you get through your difficult days with laughs and a few smiles. If she were not so concerned with improving her health she would not have put herself through so much and risked so much to try and improve it. This book talks of Frida's 'desperate hope' and I think that is just what she had. I'm sure the heavy drinking didn't help - nobody's perfect - but I think it is unfair to say that Frida would have made herself bedbound for months after a risky surgery because it might improve her love-life in the short term. It is so easy to write 'she was bedbound for 4 months' after a surgery. But to actually experience being bedbound, relying on others for every small thing and being unable to paint - to do the one thing you love so very much - for 4 months is a thing of immense magnitude. The difference between being bedbound for a month or 2 or 4 is very hard to put into words. Each day and week and month of being bedbound contains so much suffering and being utterly miserable. Every week or even hour counts. There are big sufferings and small ones and a loss of dignity and the soul-destroying feeling of being dependant on others for everything. There is so much more suffering than you can imagine, if you haven't done it. Try it for a month... or a week, and see how likely you'd be to do it to yourself again if you could at all avoid it. For any reason not connected to your health. Frida's illness made her oppressed by tedium, very lonely and sometimes possibly suicidal. Frida wrote after one surgery that she was going through 'a desperation that no words can describe' and said that she was 'happy to be alive so long as I can paint.' Personally I don't buy that someone as remarkable, independent and painting-obsessed as Frida would give herself even one extra month of being bedbound (and unable to paint or even to SIT) and an unpleasant and unnecessary surgery, on purpose, let alone just to get attention from someone else in such a weak and manipulative way. Playing up certain aspects of illness, or exaggerating them at times and demanding more care and attention from others after a surgery - maybe, but not that. Just my opinion. What I know for sure is that Frida was a remarkable and complicated individual and a brilliant artist. I enjoyed seeing some of the paintings reproduced in this book that I hadn't seen before and now want to see as many of them as I can, as well as learn more about Frida. This was an interesting read overall. I'm glad too I got a copy with a Frida painting featured on the cover and not the movie-tie-in image of an actor - hate when publishers do that! I'm looking forward to reading 'Devouring Frida' now, which comes highly recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Most of us know about the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and how she suffered. Her suffering is unimaginable. The book begins with the details of her bout with polio and then her accident, when the bus she was riding in, in Mexico City, was hit by a tram. September 17, 1925. Her letters to her boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias, are excruciating to read. He attempts to escape (her); she hangs on with an unrelenting fervor. Letter after letter are included in this book. (Stricter editing please!) Her Most of us know about the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and how she suffered. Her suffering is unimaginable. The book begins with the details of her bout with polio and then her accident, when the bus she was riding in, in Mexico City, was hit by a tram. September 17, 1925. Her letters to her boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias, are excruciating to read. He attempts to escape (her); she hangs on with an unrelenting fervor. Letter after letter are included in this book. (Stricter editing please!) Her pain is both physical and psychological; painting is an attempt to fight back. I cannot but help comparing why she paints to Kandinsky's statement that he stopped painting when his pain ceased. Only for her it does not cease. She lives with physical pain and illness. There is more: her relationship with her husband Diego Rivera, the famed muralist, is not easy…..but neither is she easy to live with. Both have affairs. She is bisexual. Both black and white photos and colored plates of paintings are included in the book. All are explained in relation to her physical and psychological state. This is interesting, but excessive. Need everything be explained, and is there only one true explanation? After 200 pages, I realize I cannot go on with this book! Reading about a person that is so diametrically opposed to yourself and all that you value makes their behavior incomprehensible. Yes, she reinvents facts, but that is not all I object too. Furthermore, I hate books of art criticism that instruct how you should interpret artwork. For this reason too, the book is not for me. I don't think the book is bad for others who react less negatively to her morals and personal choices. I don't think it is bad for those of you who want Kahlo's art explained. My two stars just reflects my personal reaction to this book. I cannot even wait to slam the book shut until after I have read about her affair with Trotsky. I will read about that quickly on Wikipedia instead. She is such a whiner.......even if she has a lot to whine about! OK, punch me for not loving a book about a woman who suffered terribly. *************** After 131 pages: Oh my, it is good I have two books to switch between because Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo is at times harrowing and at other times frustrating. Her accident is harrowing, but her tendency to reinvent facts is frustrating. This book is detailed, sometimes excessively.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tifnie

    This was a fascinating book. I felt, while reading this book, I also got an art history lesson. I remember Frida Kahlo's art as being dark, vulgar, and somewhat childish, but I didn't really know the history behind the paintings and that of Frida's life story. From a young age, Frida Kahlo was outgoing, outspoken, and a prankster. She lived life to the fullest and often got into trouble. Unfortunately, a horrific accident at age 18 changed the course of her life. Her paintings are mos This was a fascinating book. I felt, while reading this book, I also got an art history lesson. I remember Frida Kahlo's art as being dark, vulgar, and somewhat childish, but I didn't really know the history behind the paintings and that of Frida's life story. From a young age, Frida Kahlo was outgoing, outspoken, and a prankster. She lived life to the fullest and often got into trouble. Unfortunately, a horrific accident at age 18 changed the course of her life. Her paintings are mostly self portraits exhibiting extraordinary pain and suffering. Her paintings became her autobiography. She transfered raw emotions onto canvas and drew life, her life, as it was happening and how, as she changed and evolved, so did her paintings. Married to Diego Rivera for almost 25 years, Frida Kahlo became a woman in her own right. She balked at fashion, instead choosing to wear traditional Mexican dresses with lots of jewelry. She had no patience for people who were uneducated, played silly games, or lied. She spoke the truth and from the heart as was evident in her paintings. Reading this book allowed me access into Frida Kahlo's life as not only a painter but as a remarkably strong Mexican woman in the 1930's. More importantly, it taught me about what Frida Kahlo stood for in life. That throughout all her pain and suffering over the years she still felt that life is about love and without love, there is no life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    An excellent biography: why did any more need to be written?? And I must make clear that I read this book in the D.F. in the 80's after seeing her home in Coyoacan, long before the Frida craze began...Yes, I was ahead of the curve! Yes I am a trendsetter! No I'm not a sheep! seriously, Kahlo is a great artist and I hate how commodified her life and her work have become. Some great artists have as their subject the self, and the self is as rich and vast a canvas as any.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eve Kay

    The beginning and the end were the best parts of this biography. The author writes objectively about Frida's life in these parts and in a way just simply recounts her life and adds passages from other people involved in her life one way or other. The middle part was tough, I grudged through. I detested the author's way of reducing Frida to this depressive obsessive with no life, no passion, no future, no ambition. Just a wife but not just a wife, a woman desperately attached to a man who di The beginning and the end were the best parts of this biography. The author writes objectively about Frida's life in these parts and in a way just simply recounts her life and adds passages from other people involved in her life one way or other. The middle part was tough, I grudged through. I detested the author's way of reducing Frida to this depressive obsessive with no life, no passion, no future, no ambition. Just a wife but not just a wife, a woman desperately attached to a man who did not reciprocate the emotions she lashed out like a wild cat. The author also analysed Frida's work in minute detail which in hindsight is excellent work and at times very interesting but whilst reading it can be a right bore. On the other hand I loved how I got to know more about Frida, I always knew about her obsession with Diego (it's also kinda obvious in her work, duh), but now I got to know 'the truth' and it was dark. Also, I got alot of confirmation for how I've always seen her work, many of the scrutinizing analyzis of Hedera were the kind that I had already thought myself. There's a tumoltuous confusion inside me about Frida. It's not even really about this book. I don't know if you can write about her in a way that I wouldn't at least once want to tear my hair out by it's roots. Towards the end she gets crazy obsessed about her health, her operations, her illness. Sure, it kind of makes sense, she didn't have a choice really, the way I see it. Her whole life was kind of an obsession with one thing or another. We're lucky she chose painting to express herself. We get to admire her work and learn something about her life and at the same time get a trip down a memory lane. Frida's lane.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    This is the one you want if you're looking for a comprehensive biography of iconic, elusive 20th-century artist Frida Kahlo. So many later books and articles about her life reference this text--and for good reason. Herrera's account of Kahlo's short life is compulsively readable and, after more than 500 pages, only leaves you wanting more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    I read this book in 1998, after seeing a thumbnail image of the Two Fridas in an art history textbook. Thus began my complete obsession with Kahlo. I just stood before the actual painting tonight at the Dallas Museum of Art. It is larger than I thought, and it took my breath away. Ugly crying also may have occurred, but what happens at the DMA stays at the DMA. I'm waiting to hear Herrera speak now, and I'm bummed that I forgot to bring the bio to have her sign. This biography is one of the best I read this book in 1998, after seeing a thumbnail image of the Two Fridas in an art history textbook. Thus began my complete obsession with Kahlo. I just stood before the actual painting tonight at the Dallas Museum of Art. It is larger than I thought, and it took my breath away. Ugly crying also may have occurred, but what happens at the DMA stays at the DMA. I'm waiting to hear Herrera speak now, and I'm bummed that I forgot to bring the bio to have her sign. This biography is one of the best I have read, ever. In part, because Kahlo's life story was so rich, and also because Herrera's respect for her subject. There is a scene in the book that happened while Kahlo was being cremated that I seriously thought I dreamed or read in a magical realism novel somewhere. Frantic librarian googling a few years ago led me back to this bio. (See, now you have to read the book to see what I'm talking about!)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maggie

    I love this biography, start to finish. Frida amazes me, and the breadth of this book is astonishing.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ChapterOne

    Another one where I chose to watch the movie instead of read the book. Good one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Very accessible bio of an amazing artist

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bernadette

    One of the best biographies I ever read! Excellent! Hhigly recommended for any art lover and appreciator of this woman's heart.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Inga

    This book really brought Frida to life and included interesting insights into her work...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Frida Kahlo isn't my absolute favorite painter in terms of style, but that's more a matter of taste than anything else. She is without doubt a highly influential, groundbreaking artist, particularly within the field of women-as-subject. "Frida", however, is not so much a book about Kahlo's works as it is about her life. Which it should be, what with the fact that it's a biography and all. Herrera constructs a detailed, engaging biography that examines the major events of Frida's life- Frida Kahlo isn't my absolute favorite painter in terms of style, but that's more a matter of taste than anything else. She is without doubt a highly influential, groundbreaking artist, particularly within the field of women-as-subject. "Frida", however, is not so much a book about Kahlo's works as it is about her life. Which it should be, what with the fact that it's a biography and all. Herrera constructs a detailed, engaging biography that examines the major events of Frida's life--and in particular her marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera--and sets them against the psychological undertones of her works. At times, this was one of the book's flaws: Herrera also has a book out about Frida's paintings, and I feel that art analysis, as inevitable as it is when writing about an artist, is more appropriate for a study of art. Sometimes, there was a little too much about Frida's paintings and not enough about Frida. However, that issue is a small one and doesn't detract from an accomplished biography. Many writers would have viewed Frida's lifestyle, and particularly her marriage to Rivera, with a jaundiced, post-feminist-movement eye. Herrera is honest and does not criticize her subject. She only wishes to study her, and to try to explain Frida's psychology without yammering about her mistakes. She also doesn't lionize the artist, detailing her many flaws with refreshing honesty. Again, Kahlo's marriage to Rivera often takes center stage, because he was a huge part of her life. Rivera was not so much Kahlo's husband as he was her lover, her best friend, and her great supporter in terms of art. Despite his many flaws, he never seemed threatened by her great talent, and was in fact proud of it. One of the great things about this book is that you get to learn a lot about Rivera, simply because he influenced Frida so much, and vice versa. As interesting as the Riveras' relationship was, I would have liked to see a bit more of Frida's personal life outside of her marriage. "Frida" is by no means a recent publication, and I wonder if as much was known about Frida's affairs and their effect on her work when Herrera was researching the artist. In particular, there are many, many details about Frida's heterosexual affairs but fewer still on her homosexual involvements. Which is kind of odd, since she likely had many, what with Rivera tolerating his wife's lesbian affairs more than he did her heterosexual relationships. It doesn't take away from the book, again, but simply struck me as kind of odd. Finally, on a purely superficial note, I wish that my copy had a different cover. I can understand replacing the original cover with the movie cover when you're trying to sell a commercial blockbuster like Twilight, but... this is a real person. This is Frida Kahlo. There are plenty of amazing photographs of her, and many, many fantastic self portraits. As much as I loved Salma Hayek's portrayal of the artist, WHY IS SHE ON THE COVER I MEAN WHY. "Frida" could have had a bit more detail; but overall, it's a great biography and I highly recommend it to fans of the artist and those interested in female-focused painting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ania

    AMAZING!!!!!!! great book, incredible woman. My only critique is that her bisexuality seems glossed over... Not much about her relationships with women. ---- "At bedtime, Levy and the senior Kaufmann tried to wait each other out so as to spend the last moments of the evening in romantic solitude with Frida. When she retired, Fallingwater's complicated double stairway served as the stage for the evening's drama. After biding his time until he thought everyone was peacefully asleep, Lev AMAZING!!!!!!! great book, incredible woman. My only critique is that her bisexuality seems glossed over... Not much about her relationships with women. ---- "At bedtime, Levy and the senior Kaufmann tried to wait each other out so as to spend the last moments of the evening in romantic solitude with Frida. When she retired, Fallingwater's complicated double stairway served as the stage for the evening's drama. After biding his time until he thought everyone was peacefully asleep, Levy emerged from his room and started up one side of the staircase. Much to his astonishment, he found his host climbing the stairs on the other side. Both retreated. The same confrontation took place several times. In the end, Levy gave up. But when he returned to his bedroom, there was Frida--waiting for him!" Letter from Diego to Frida: "Don't be silly. I don't want you for my sake to lose the opportunity to go to Paris. TAKE FROM LIFE ALL WHICH SHE GIVES YOU, WHATEVER IT MAY BE, PROVIDED IT IS INTERESTING AND CAN GIVE YOU SOME PLEASURE. When one is old, one knows what it is to have lost what offered itself when one did not know enough to take it." Letter by Frida that shows what she thought of the Surrealists: "Until I came the paintings were still in the custom house, because the s. of a b. of Breton didn't take the trouble to get them out. The photographs which you sent ages ago, he never received -- so he says -- the gallery was not arranged for the exhibit at all and Breton has no gallery of his own long ago. So I had to wait days and days just like an idiot till I met Marcel Duchamp (marvelous painter) who is the only one who has his feet on the earth, among all this bunch of coocoo lunatic sons of bitches of the surrealists. He immediately got my paintings out and tried to find a gallery." "Frida liked to enliven this tableau with animals -- a chipmunk in a cage, or, on the loose, her little parrot, Bonito, who was then her favorite pet and used to nestle under the blankets when she rested in bed. During lunch, Bonito chattered, cocked his head, and gave people his quizzical round-eyed look before bestowing beaky kisses upon them. His favorite dish was butter; watching him make his pigeon-toed way around an obstacle course of clay pots and bowls set up by Frida and Diego, and then delve into his buttery reward, kept guests in fits of laughter. Meanwhile, outside in the patio, a large male parrot, which drank quantities of beer or tequila, cursed and squawked: 'No me pasa la cruda!' (I can't get over this hangover!) If his cage was open, he would put his head down and make a beeline for some unsuspecting guest's appetizing ankle."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I read this because the movie is a favorite. I think what fascinates me the most is that I really disliked Kahlo's style and looked somewhat askance at how much she painted herself before I read the book. But the more I read, the more I came to appreciate both - especially how autobiographical her paintings are. At the same time, I was somewhat frustrated by the attention given to her art, or perhaps the way it was done. I feel like the issue here is with me rather than the biography I read this because the movie is a favorite. I think what fascinates me the most is that I really disliked Kahlo's style and looked somewhat askance at how much she painted herself before I read the book. But the more I read, the more I came to appreciate both - especially how autobiographical her paintings are. At the same time, I was somewhat frustrated by the attention given to her art, or perhaps the way it was done. I feel like the issue here is with me rather than the biography itself - art isn't a primary subject of interest for me and I can be pretty skeptical about art criticism. Herrera does much in the way of critiquing paintings and explaining the psychology behind them. That can be fascinating if there's confirmation from the artist or the people in her life about her intent. At times there certainly was evidence to back up Herrera's statements. On the other hand, I found myself questioning assertions like this: The still lifes Frida painted in 1951 and earlier are neat and precise in technique, full of refined detail and sly, suggestive wit. By 1952 her style had changed radically; the late still lifes are not just animate but agitated. They have a kind of wild intensity, as if Frida were flailing about in search of something solid, a raft in a heavy sea of impermanence. Yes, she was in decline at the time.... but what if she simply wanted to experiment with another style? While I couldn't help but question Herrera's interpretations at times, this could very well be my own ignorance about Kahlo and an inability to appreciate art criticism. The magnetism of Kahlo definitely comes out, though ultimately I came away wanting for more.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Doria

    What a fascinating read! Granted, I love non-fiction, especially heavily footnoted biographies, and I recognize that they are not everyone's cup of tea, but still. I found this to be an excellent book, superbly well written, filled with fascinating details, meticulously researched, inclusive of all relevant details, whether they fit comfortably into our notion of who Frida was or not. Herrera showed herself to be entirely lacking in prejudice in her devoted search for the truth of who Frida Kahl What a fascinating read! Granted, I love non-fiction, especially heavily footnoted biographies, and I recognize that they are not everyone's cup of tea, but still. I found this to be an excellent book, superbly well written, filled with fascinating details, meticulously researched, inclusive of all relevant details, whether they fit comfortably into our notion of who Frida was or not. Herrera showed herself to be entirely lacking in prejudice in her devoted search for the truth of who Frida Kahlo de Rivera was. There is no easy or clear single answer to this question. Frida remains as much a mystery to Herrea as she is for me, but that in no way diminishes Frida's fascination, nor does it reflect poorly upon Herrera as a writer/biographer. She refuses to gloss over uncomfortable or unappealing details, and in so doing she does as much justice to her subject as anyone could do. There is no judgment passed, yet neither are facts recorded drily and dispassionately. The book is replete with quotes from many sources, most named, a few anonymous, all from those who knew Frida in life. At the end of reading "Frida" I felt educated and enlightened; I can't claim to "know" who Frida was, but I sure know a lot more than I did. The only thing about this book that I found even remotely distasteful was the cover of this particular edition, which is a blatant advertisement for a Hollywood movie about Frida. The photo has no relevance to the book's content, and simply looks foolish. Luckily, this is one of those cases of "you cannot judge a book by its cover." I'm very glad that I didn't.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I loved reading about most of her life, although there are bits of her biography that aren't the easiest to read. I loved reading about her affairs the best, as it was sort of bitter sweet. I wish it would have had footnotes, so I could have read the notes in the back. I also think it is superfluous to describe a painting that there is a picture of in the book. I also think there should of been a dictionary of the Spanish words used throughout the book, as I can never remember any of it. Frida i I loved reading about most of her life, although there are bits of her biography that aren't the easiest to read. I loved reading about her affairs the best, as it was sort of bitter sweet. I wish it would have had footnotes, so I could have read the notes in the back. I also think it is superfluous to describe a painting that there is a picture of in the book. I also think there should of been a dictionary of the Spanish words used throughout the book, as I can never remember any of it. Frida is an amazing person, it goes without saying and Herrera manages to organise her life in a readable and interesting way. I love that Picasso gave her earrings and the little stories like how she had a drunk bird who would squawk about the awful hangovers. This is a book to stay on the shelf. Diego's full name: Diego Maria de la Concepcion Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao (pg 81) In 1927, Orozco (pg 114)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maritza

    I was really in between a 3 and 4 so I decided on a 3.5. I thought Herrera wrote beautifully, especially because her tone really matched Frida's vivacity. I felt somehow though she played on Frida's myth too much. I also feel biographies can be problematic to write because a person is so complex that to grasp them successfully is always a challenge and at times I felt this was the case with Frida. Herrera interprets her paintings with great detail and enthusiasm (but this sometimes got tiring). I was really in between a 3 and 4 so I decided on a 3.5. I thought Herrera wrote beautifully, especially because her tone really matched Frida's vivacity. I felt somehow though she played on Frida's myth too much. I also feel biographies can be problematic to write because a person is so complex that to grasp them successfully is always a challenge and at times I felt this was the case with Frida. Herrera interprets her paintings with great detail and enthusiasm (but this sometimes got tiring). She also includes some letters that I feel weren't necessary at times. I really enjoyed this but I think it was my love for Frida that kept me reading. Viva la vida. Very moving biography.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Mj

    I didnt know anything about Frida before i read this book..had only seen her image about. I dont know why i choose this book on a library trip, but im glad i did. I have always appreciated art but never delved much further. This book awakened an interest in me for art history and culture. Frida was an extraordinary women. I would consider purchasing a copy of this book for my own collection. Great read!

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