We’ll never know everything about Mexican painter and monobrow pioneer Frida Kahlo. Despite having died 63 years ago, Kahlo continues to inspire from beyond the grave. Earlier this week, performance artist Rachel Mars performed Kahlo’s sex letters for a live audience at Camden People’s Theatre.
Hearing Frida Kahlo lust over “the green miracle of the landscape” of Diego Rivera’s body puts modern-day sexting to shame. “Upon your form, the lashes of the flowers responded to my touch, the murmur of streams. There was all manner of fruits in the juice of your lips, the blood of the pomegranate, the horizon of the mammee and the purified pineapple,” the Mexican painter once wrote to her husband, Diego Rivera. Her gorgeous, epistolic lusting is beyond comparison, and gives us an intimate characterisation of the adult Frida Kahlo.
There is a distinct lack of information, however, about her teenage years. Recently, photos of Kahlo as a teen in the 1920s surfaced online. Kahlo was born in 1907 (or 1910, a rumour she allegedly started to coincide with the date of the Mexican revolution; other accounts say it was just to make her sound younger). So during the 20s, she would have been between the ages of 13 and 23.
Many of these images were likely taken at National Preparatory School, which Kahlo attended in 1922. She wanted to be a doctor. It’s around the time she got her first boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias. It was because of Arias that she painted “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress”. It was a gift to placate him after he accused her of cheating. Some of the images are a result of formal sittings, and others just casual portraits taken over a long period. They feature Kahlo with friends, family and her husband, Rivera – whom she married in 1929. Throughout them all, she remains stoic: a face we’ve come to know, and love, through her self-portraits. Flicking through them, it’s evident that she had crafted such a singular style from a young age. Mostly, though, it’s a pleasing glimpse into the early life of one of the 20th century’s most zealous artists.