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Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo Paperback – January 1, 1983

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 507 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial (HarperCollins); Reprint edition (1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060911271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060911270
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,762,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A haunting, highly vivid biography." -- Ms. magazine

In Frida, art historian Hayden Herrera vividly portrays of a woman of strength, talent, humor, and endurance. Frida Kahlo (1907-54) was born in Mexico City, the child of a Mexican mother and a German father. Her early years were influenced by the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution and a bout with polio, but Frida remained spirited, resilient, and mischievous. Her father, a photographer, encouraged Frida's artistic interests, and her education at an elite school drew her to new ideas and to a group of irreverent radicals who would become some of Mexico's most respected intellectuals. When she was nineteen, Frida's life was transformed when the bus in which she was riding was hit by a trolley car. Pierced by a steel handrail and broken in many places, Frida entered a long period of convalescence during which she began to paint self-portraits. In 1928, at twenty-one, Frida joined the Communist party and came to know Diego Rivera. The forty-one-year-old Rivera, Mexico's most famous painter, was impressed by the force of Frida's personality and by the authenticity of her art, and the two soon married. Though they were devoted to each other, intermittent affairs on both sides, Frida's grief over her inability to bear a child, and her frequent illnesses made the marriage tumultuous. Hayden Herrera - combining biographical research, Frida's own letters, and analyses of Frida's paintings - illuminates and amplifies Frida Kahlo's life story, her importance as an artist, and her ultimate triumph over tragedy. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Lynne Auld

About the Author

Hayden Herrera is an art historian. She has lectured widely, curated several exhibitions of art, taught Latin American art at New York University, and has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of numerous articles and reviews for such publications as Art in America, Art Forum, Connoisseur, and the New York Times, among others. Her books include Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo; Mary Frank; and Matisse: A Portrait. She is working on a critical biography of Arshile Gorky. She lives in New York City.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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One will be as engrossed by this book as by any great novel.
R. M. Calitri
Hayden Herrera has written an excellent portrait of the great artist Frida Kahlo, complete in thought and tender in describing a woman well lived.
V. Marshall
A highly recommended biography for anyone interested in women, art and stories about courageous extraordinary people.
Charleen Touchette

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Bonny on April 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
I once shared a house with many framed posters of paintings of the same woman. She had dark hair, her eyebrows met in the middle, and she was frequently surrounded by monkeys, strange plants, bones and blood. I thought she must be a Mexican actress, and that these were movie posters. But my Latina housemate explained that these fascinating prints were actually paintings -- self-portraits, in fact -- of a Mexicana artist named Frida Kahlo. She loaned me this book to read, and I stayed up all night, and all the next night, hanging with Frida and her horny husband Diego Rivera. When the book ended, I not only cried for her death, but I missed her like a friend. Kahlo, whose degenerative back problems placed her in constant pain, painted herself because, as she said, "I am all alone most of the time." Her style was at once realistic and symbolic; and sometimes she let loose on subjects other then herself, painting a friend's suicide, for instance, or a portrait of a dead neighbor child. She lived in in Mexico during the first half of this century, and, along with her famous husband, rubbed shoulders with movie stars, Communists, art dealers and Leon Trotsky. She was known as a long-suffering wife of a man who had trouble keeping his pants on (but was the most revolutionary artist of his time); a painter; an entertainer; a hostess; bi-sexual; severely physically challenged; a Mexican patriot; she painted (many paintings are reproduced in this book); wrote letters; gave speeches; traveled; and, always, suffered. While this may sound grim, she was dearly beloved and respected in her time, and even moreso now, as much for her colorful lifestyle and outrageous sense of humor as for the truth and drama of her art.Read more ›
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Alan Cambeira on November 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely important, long overdue and commanding work on one of the most significant artistic personalities of the 20th century. The author, Hayden Herrera, is perhaps one of the few best qualified writers to present this indepth, intense penetration into the tumultuous life and work of such a complex figure in the art world. Frida Kahlo, as readers/viewers in the United States by now are aware, created some of the most unconventionally brilliant --even shocking works of arts the world has seen. Herrera's impeccable scholarship and research skills are impressive and at the same time delicately compassionate and vibrant. The movie version, by the way, was wonderful and Salma Hayek was amazing in the lead role. Thank you Hayden; thank you Frida! Absolutely spectacular subject.
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 11, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kahlo is an utterly capitaviting character, and this book delves deep into her turbulent life to capture some of what made her the painter and the woman she was. She lead an incredible life, battled staggering pain and loss, managed a marriage with a furiously self-involved genius while becoming one herself (a genius, that is), and created her own mythology. Frida's story is incredible, and Herrera brings us into contact with her totally unique energy.
But still. After pages and pages of direct citations from Kahlo's diary, after pages and pages of psychoanalytical interpretation of her paintings, the book starts to wear out its welcome. The politics of Mexico are not given any where near as much detail as desirable, and as for the rest of the world . . . forget it. WWII isn't even mentioned, and her relationship with the Communist Party is glossed over. For such a political woman as Kahlo, the absence of any analyis of the world she lived in is pretty stunning, and a major weakness of the book, since it makes it ultimately impossible to understand her.
Still, Frida Kahlo was a great painter and an extraordinary woman. To learn both more and less about her than you want, this is the perfect book.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Calitri on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
One cannot live in the modern world without regularly encountering self-portrait images of the beautiful and tragic Frida Kahlo. Whether on coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters, or Mexican artifacts, Frida's exquisite face with its darkly joined eyebrows and beribboned hair is immediately familiar to most observers, even if they do not know who she was. Yet Frida Kahlo's popularity in the twentieth century can be wholly attributed to her brilliance. Unlike the work of most modern artists, almost all of her 200 paintings depict realist, surrealist, and primitive self-portraits symbolizing the concerns and agonies of her life. Hayden Herrera's fine biography is still, seventeen years after its publication, the champion text on one of the most important, original, and phenomenal painters of our time.
Frida was born in 1910 (the year the Mexican Revolution began)to a Mexican mother and German father in the same cobalt blue house in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City, where she later worked and shared her life with the great muralist Diego Rivera. Ironically, it is the house where her life also ended. Today it is a museum, open to the public and still festooned with her beautiful collections of retablos, pottery, and Mexican folk art. Frida's life was consumed by pain as a result of suffering polio at age 6 and a bus/trolley collision as a teenager when, thrown from the bus, she was gored by a steel rail. Frida spent most years of her life bedridden and in body casts (which she also painted)after some 30 surgeries meant to alleviate her suffering. Throughout her life,and even while prone in a bed with a mirrored canopy, she painted herself because of the focus created by chronic pain and said, "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone.
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