Frida Kahlo: making her self up, V&A, review: seductive glimpses into a life of art, pain and artifice

Frida Kahlo on a bench, carbon print, 1938
Frida Kahlo on a bench, carbon print, 1938  Credit: Photo by Nickolas Muray © The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

As a painter, Frida Kahlo is an essentially minor figure – or so I’ve always thought. Her surreal explorations of personal identity, drawing heavily on Mexican folklore, feel overpowered by the works of her husband, the great mural painter Diego Rivera.

As an icon, however, as a figure and an image in her own right, Kahlo is arguably the most portrayed and reproduced artist of all time. With her sharp features, blazing dark eyes and singular dress sense – Mexican peasant with a touch of baroque fantasy – Kahlo is seen in far more images than either of those great self-portraitists Rembrandt and van Gogh, and more than even much photographed modern artists such as Picasso and Andy Warhol. In the...

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