When Frida Kahlo died in 1954, she left behind a slender oeuvre. It consists of 143 paintings of small size, rarely larger than 20 x 30 inches, many of them now considered icons of 20th century art, most of them self-portraits. The reasons for this ostensible narcissism were closely bound up with Kahlo's biography, with the country and epoch in which she grew up, and with her decidedly eccentric character. It was no coincidence that the major enigmatic minds of the 16th century, namely Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, were among her favorite painters. For Frida Kahlo never displayed her wounds directly--be it the physical wounds caused by accidents and illness, or the psychological inner wounds. Hers is a subtly enciphered symbolic language, rich in metaphors drawn from almost all the world's cultures. Aztec myths of creation, Far Eastern and Classical Greek mythology, and popular Catholic beliefs all mingle in Kahlo's pictures with Mexican folklore and the stuff of quotidian life, with Marx and Freud. Andrô Breton, one of her many admirers among the European avant-garde, once described Kahlo's art as a "colored ribbon round a bomb." Exotic and explosive, sensuous and fascinatingly vital in terms of artistic statement, Kahlo's paintings shed a complex and often frightening light on her soul, her "inner reality," as she called it.
If the incessant commercial marketing of Kahlo's paintings over the past decade has obscured a clear view of her extraordinary oeuvre, this present monograph attempts to make amends. Frida Kahlo: The Painter and Her Work returns to the heart, to 42 select masterpieces, reproduced in full and in detail. The painterly quality, the beauty, and the immense wealth of details in Kahlo's paintings is laid out before the reader's eyes, as is the abyss in which the artist found herself.