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Frida, a Biography of Frida Kahlo Paperback – 1983

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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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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 (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,466,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 82 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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50 of 51 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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66 of 70 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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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By F. Lennox Campello on May 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you are a Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera fan (as I am) that is... then this book is your bible -- it is a well-organized orchestration of dates, facts, and photographs about the Mexican artist gods. Some of the moments in the book are intimate, while others are possibly exagerations of the artists' famous life.
With a movie in the works (Selma Hayek plays Frida - that is after Laura San Giacomo, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez all had the part, and were dropped because Fridomexicans complained about the lack of Mexicanity in the actresses chosen to portrait their newly-found goddess), Kahlo is sure to solidify her position as the top-of-the-art-food-chain Latin American artist of the century (Georgia O'Keefe considered her the best female artist of the 20th century) and make her iconic face even more famous.
Kahlo deserves this position because she painted honestly and brutally. She painted her memorable Jewish-Austrian-Spanish-Mexican face, single eyebrow and slim moustache in stark honesty; she had many lovers of both sexes (when such a course of sex exploits was practically unknown); she grabbed her Mexicanity with a fierce pride and ferocity that would not be in vogue until decades after her death (Kahlo was born in 1907 and died in 1954) and yet during her life she was just the wife of a very famous Mexican muralist and a champagne Communist who partied with the Fords and Rockefellers while marching with the workers down the wide avenues of Mexico City. It is thus ironic that it is Kahlo, whose astonishing life and unique paintings are now the subject of lawsuits between governments and collectors, has taken the limelight from her talented womanizer husband and is rightfully considered one of the best artists of the 20th century, period. This is THE BOOK about her.
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