This is a wonderful book, about an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life – and she articulated this life via her paintings - every step of the way. I still feel on a high from reading it. Library fanatic that I am -I nevertheless had to stop half way through and buy my own copy.

Kahlo was a woman of enormous passions. Passion for Mexico and its culture, passion for politics – particularly Communism, passion forthe love of her life - Diego Rivera, and passion for herappalling bad health. The last was not in any way hypochondria, rather it was a courageous and noble fighting against the most horrendous physical burdens, caused firstly by polio, and secondly by her involvement in a bus and tram accident.

I had of course seen Kahlo’s work before (though sadly never first hand), but I had never heard any sort of commentary about it. Andrea Kettenmann’sinsights were water on parched soil…what a delight to have Kahlo’s beautiful and sometimes frightening work unfolded and discussed. Suddenly all that symbolism – a defining part of her work even at a casual glance – took on more depth.

I loved the way that Kahlo’swork is so linked to her life and experiences. For instance in the year of her divorce from Rivera she does a painting of herself,(see below), not wearing one of her usual lovely Mexican costumes, but wearing a baggy man’s suit, and with her hair cropped closely around her head. The floor is littered with locks of hair. There are words in the painting,taken from a popular song of the time “See, if I loved you, it was for your hair; now that you’re bald, I don’t love you anymore.” A year later, when she and Diego remarried,she did a portrait of herself with her hair in an ornate plaited bow on top of her head, and little wisps and tufts of hair sticking out of the plait …. This picture is a celebration. “The strands of hair littering the floor of the first picture have clearly been gathered up again in the second and plaited into a new braid….thus the femininity which she rejected and symbolically renounced in 1940, she now takes up again one year later.” All of her work is like this – resonating with her life experiences. She doesn’t even do it retrospectively; she paints as it happens, as she undergoes the experience, and the results are immensely powerful.

The book ends with an excellent timeline of Kahlo’s life, which ended far too soon, when she died of pneumonia aged 47.

My one gripe is that not only is the author’s name not on the cover of the book, but there is no short biography of her either. I was also unable to find her on the internet. So thank you Ms Virtually Anonymous Andrea Kettenmann for a fantastic book.

Kahlo manly SMALL

Kahlo plait SMALL


Pictures photographed from the book.

The book I bought has arrived. It is about 1/3rd smaller than the book that I reviewed above (its the same book, but smaller). The illustrations therefore don't have the same impact. The ideal book is the one that is 11.75 inches x 9 inches, which should still be available second hand.

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