In collaboration with Cobra Museum

A feminist icon

A disabled, bi-cultural and bisexual woman with immense talent, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is regarded as a figurehead of independence and women's liberation. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: A Love Revolution explores themes of political and social engagement, free expression, emancipation and gender - positioning Kahlo within the framework of her intersectionality - a word that takes on new meaning in society today.

Kahlo’s dramatic life was shaped by a traffic accident in her childhood that caused her acute pain for most of her life and the inability to have children. Strapped in a plaster corset and bedbound, she began to paint self-portraits using a mirror positioned on the ceiling. At the time, her unashamed discussion of pain, infertility and the female experience was deeply radical. Her self-portraits, depicting her iconic dark eyebrows and upper lip, never prescribed to prevailing beauty ideals, whilst her traditional hairstyles and dress were a statement against colonialism.

A turbulent marriage

Kahlo was highly politically active and spoke out against religion and fascism. At a communist party meeting in 1929, she met Diego Rivera, a celebrity muralist twenty years her senior and with fame in Mexico equal to Picasso’s. Even though he was twice her age and an outspoken ladies man, the two artists fell in love and later married. The free-spirited and bisexual Kahlo, who also had affairs herself, had no initial objection to Rivera’s extra-marital escapades. After he took up with her sister, Christina, the couple divorced only to later remarry.

Despite the tensions in their relationships, both artists were never able to let go of each other in their work. Many of Kahlo’s most famous works explore her relationship with Rivera; she depicts him as her third eye or cradled in her lap. In turn, Rivera immortalised his muse in several murals. In one example, she takes the role of arms distributor for the proletarian revolution. Many original works from a private collection, never shown in the Netherlands before, are on display.

Inner worlds

Whilst Kahlo’s paintings are now admired the world over, during her life, her artistry fell into the shadow of her husband. Rivera was the director of an art academy, sat on all kinds of committees and collected pre-Hispanic art. His power and influence are reflected in the format of his murals - some of which stretch to a dazzling 225 square metres. By contrast, Kahlo’s small canvases offer a powerful window into her inner world, simultaneously emanating pain and strength.

The exhibition places the now more famous Frida Kahlo in the context of Rivera and other modernists of their time. A series of intimate photographs reveal their intriguing dynamic and provide a fascinating insight into their mutual respect and influence on one another. Viewers are confronted with a fascinating portrait of this unparalleled artist couple, who continue to inspire young generations of artists. Today, 68 years after Kahlo’s death, more than ever.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: A Love Revolution is on display at The Cobra Museum of Modern Art from June 5 to September 26