September 25, 2020May 2, 2021

Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

At the time of Frida Kahlo’s death in 1954, a treasure trove of the artist's highly personal items—including jewelry, clothing, and prosthetics—were locked away. 50 years later, these belongings were unsealed—now they’re on view for the first time on the West Coast. Discover what these objects reveal about their now iconic owner in Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving. Digital wall labels are available in English and Spanish.

Image: Nickolas Muray, "Frida in Blue Dress, New York City," 1939. 12.6 x 9.4 inches (32 x 24 cm). The Hecksher Family Collection © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Artist Bio

Nickolas Muray, "Frida with Olmeca Figurine, Coyoacán," 1939. Color carbon print, 10 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (27.3 x 40 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of George and Marie Hecksher in honor of the tenth anniversary of the new de Young museum. 2018.68.1. © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

The artist Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 1907–1954) is today an iconic figure, known as much for her path-breaking artwork as for her striking appearance. Kahlo began to paint while recovering from a near-fatal bus accident in 1925, which left her with lasting medical complications, disabilities, and chronic pain. Kahlo famously married the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957) in 1929. Their union was unconventional and tumultuous—they divorced in 1939 and remarried thirteen months later in San Francisco. Throughout, they shared a deep devotion to art, to Mexico and its multifaceted cultures, and to revolutionary politics.

Many of Kahlo’s approximately 200 paintings explore her complex identities and engage themes of disability, gender, and politics. Her paintings elude definition. Sometimes associated with Surrealism, Kahlo herself resisted that categorization, stating that her paintings were “the frankest expression of [her]self.”

Upon her death in 1954, at the instruction of Rivera many of her personal possessions were locked away in La Casa Azul—the home where she was born, lived most of her life, and died. Today, La Casa Azul—located in Coyoacán, Mexico City—houses the Museo Frida Kahlo, where in 2004 the remarkable trove of items that had been hidden away fifty years earlier came to light. Drawings, documents, dresses, accessories, and Kahlo’s colorful self-fashioned outfits from this trove—along with select paintings by Kahlo and items from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco—are the heart of this exhibition.

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Shop the Exhibition

In celebration of Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, the de Young Museum Store is featuring a lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogue, apparel, accessories, and other items from noted designers and artisans.

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