Diego & Frida Museums
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The Frida Kahlo Museum (Spanish: Museo Frida Kahlo), also known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul) for the structure’s cobalt-blue walls, is a historic house museum and art museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City. The building was Kahlo’s birthplace, the home where she grew up, lived with her husband Diego Rivera for a number of years, and where she later died in a room on the upper floor. In 1957, Diego Rivera donated the home and its contents in order to turn it into a museum in Frida’s honor.
The museum contains a collection of artwork by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and other artists along with the couple’s Mexican folk art, pre-Hispanic artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, personal items, and more. The collection is displayed in the rooms of the house which remains much as it was in the 1950s. It is the most popular museum in Coyoacán and one of the most visited in Mexico City.
Originally the house was the family home of Frida Kahlo, but since 1958, it has served as museum dedicated to her life and work. With about 25,000 visitors monthly, it is one of Mexico City’s most-visited museums, and the most-visited site in Coyoacán. The museum is supported solely by ticket sales and donations.
The museum demonstrates the lifestyle of wealthy Mexican bohemian artists and intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century. The entrance ticket to the Casa Azul allows for free entrance into the nearby Anahuacalli Museum, which was also established by Diego Rivera. According to records and testimony, the house today looks much as it did in 1951, decorated with Mexican folk art, Kahlo’s personal art collection, a large collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts, traditional Mexican cookware, linens, personal mementos such as photographs, postcards and letters, and works by José María Velasco, Paul Klee, and Diego Rivera. Much of the collection is in display cases designed for their preservation. The museum also contains a café and a small gift shop.
The museum consists of ten rooms. On the ground floor is a room that contains some of Kahlo’s mostly minor works such as Frida y la cesárea, 1907–1954, Retrato de familia, 1934, Ruina, 1947, Retrato de Guillermo Kahlo, 1952, El marxismo dará salud, 1954 (showing Frida throwing away her crutches), with a watercolor Diario de Frida in the center. This room originally was the formal living room, where Frida and Diego entertained notable Mexican and international visitors and friends such as Sergei Eisenstein, Nelson Rockefeller, George Gershwin, caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias, and actresses Dolores del Río and María Félix. Frida Kahlo Rock
The second and third rooms are dedicated to personal effects and mementos and to some of Rivera’s works. The second room is filled with everyday items Frida used, letters, photographs, and notes. On the walls are pre-Hispanic necklaces and folk dresses, especially the Tehuana-style ones that were Frida’s trademark. Paintings in the third room include Retrato de Carmen Portes Gil, 1921, Ofrenda del día de muertos, 1943, and Mujer con cuerpo de guitarra, 1916.
The fourth room contains contemporary paintings by artists such as Paul Klee, José María Velasco, Joaquín Clausel, Celia Calderón Orozco, and a sculpture by Mardonio Magaña. The fifth room contains two large Judas figures, “mujeres bonitos” figures from Tlatilco, State of Mexico and figures from the Teotihuacan culture. The large papier-mâché Judas figures and other papier-mâché monsters were traditionally filled with firecrackers and exploded on the Saturday before Easter.
The sixth and seventh rooms are the kitchen and dining room. Both are in classic Mexican style, with bright yellow tile floors, blue and yellow tile counters and a long yellow table, where Frida’s sister Ruth stated that Frida spent much of her time. The two rooms are filled with large earthenware pots, plates, utensils, glassware, and more which came from Metepec, Oaxaca, Tlaquepaque, and Guanajuato, all known for their handcrafted items. Decorative features include papier-mâché Judas skeletons hanging from its ceiling, and walls with tiny pots spelling the names of Frida and Diego next to a pair of doves tying a lovers’ knot. Pyramid in the courtyard displaying pre-Hispanic pieces
Off the dining room was Rivera’s bedroom, with his hat, jacket, and work clothes still hanging from a wall rack. Next to this is a stairwell that leads from the courtyard area to the upper floor. This area also contains a large number of folk art items and includes about 2,000 votive paintings from the colonial period to the 20th century, other colonial era work, and more Judas figures.
The two rooms of the upper floor which are open to the public contain Frida’s final bedroom and studio area. This is located in the wing that Rivera had built. The original furniture is still there. In one corner, her ashes are on display in an urn, which is surrounded by a funeral mask, some personal items, and mirrors on the ceiling. On her bed is a painted plaster corset she was forced to wear to support her damaged spine, and under the canopy is a mirror facing down which she used to paint her many self-portraits. The head of the bed contains the painting of a dead child, and the foot contains a photo montage of Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Mao Zedong. The pillow is embroidered with the words “Do not forget me, my love.” Her wheelchair is drawn up to an unfinished portrait of Stalin, on an easel which is said was given to her by Nelson Rockefeller. Stalin became a hero to Kahlo after the Red Army victory over Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front in World War II.
The tour of the museum ends at the large courtyard garden which is completely enclosed by the four sides or wings of the structure. The courtyard area is divided by a stepped pyramid, a fountain, and a reflection pool. These were built in the 1940s when Rivera first moved into the house and built the fourth wing enclosing the house. This wing’s walls which face the courtyard are decorated with marine shells and mirrors. There are also sculptures by Mexican artist Mardonio Magaña. One side of the courtyard contains the inscription “Frida y Diego / vivieron en / esta casa / 1929-1954” (Frida and Diego lived in this house – 1929-1954).
The house was constructed in 1904 in Colonia Del Carmen in Coyoacán, which was established on lands that belonged to the former Hacienda del Carmen, a property of the Carmelites in the colonial period. At that time and during the first half of the 20th century, Coyoacán was officially part of the Federal District of Mexico City, but was still relatively rural and separate from Mexico City’s urban sprawl. Since the late 19th century, a number of Mexico City’s wealthy had built country homes in the area, often imitating the colonial designs of the past. Colonia del Carmen became popular with artists and intellectuals starting around the 1920s, due to the promotion of it by Francisco Sosa and the establishment of the Escuela de Pintura al Aire Libre (Open Air School of Painting) at the former San Pedro Martír Hacienda in 1923. Originally, the exterior of the house was decorated in a French-inspired motif, which was popular in Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “(…) you have to know, my girl, that in my accumulator of love there is enough energy (…), without ceasing to seem to me that just five minutes ago I found you and began to love you.”
Frida Kahlo was born in this house in 1907, and it remained her family home throughout her life. She spent her last thirteen years of it here as well. Frida was the daughter of Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, who immigrated from Europe to Mexico and native Mexican Matilde Calderón y González. Frida spent her childhood in this house. She stated that during the Mexican Revolution, her mother would open the windows of this house in order to donate supplies to the Zapata army when it was in the area in 1913. She also spent large amount of time in the house convalescing, first in 1918 when she was struck with polio which would leave one leg shorter than the other. When she was 18, a trolley accident left her badly mangled. She spent about two years confined to her bed in casts and orthopedic devices. It was then she began to paint as a way to pass the time. One of the works from this time has Frida on what appears to be a stretcher, her body bandaged and located to the side of this house. Frida met Diego Rivera while he was painting murals at the Secretaria de Educacion Publica building and invited him to the Casa Azul to see her work. Rivera soon began to be a regular visitor to the house. Other notable artists followed, making the house one of the area’s meeting places. After marrying Rivera, Frida moved from her childhood home to an apartment on Paseo de la Reforma, but Rivera paid off the family’s mortgage on the Casa Azul. For most of the 1930s, Frida lived in other places in Mexico City or abroad, but visited her family in the home frequently and it appears in a painting done in 1936 called Mis abuelos, mis padres y yo also called Arbol genealógico. Inscription on wall that says that Frida and Diego lived at the house.
Because of intervention by Kahlo and Rivera, Russian Leon Trotsky obtained asylum in Mexico. Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, were first housed in La Casa Azul starting in January 1937. The windows facing the street were closed in with adobe bricks for Trotsky’s safety as he was under a death sentence from Stalin. A high wall was built between this house and the adjoining one as well. From January 1937 to April 1939, Trotsky lived and worked here, writing treatises such as Su moral y la nuestra and his regular political articles. This would often cause security problems in the area, due to the hostility of Trotsky’s political enemies. During all of this time, the house continued to be a meeting place for intellectuals, especially those associated with Communism. In April 1939, Trotsky and Sedova left the Blue House after Trotsky had a falling out with Rivera over ideology and Rivera’s criticism of Trotsky’s writings, moving to a nearby house on Viena Street. Garden courtyard of The Blue House—Museo Frida Kahlo, in Mexico City.
Rivera and Kahlo divorced in November 1939. However, the couple did not break all contact, and they remarried in December 1940. In 1941, just before Frida’s father’s death, Rivera moved into the house, although he maintained another residence in San Angel. During this time, Rivera constructed the wing which faces Londres Street and encloses the courtyard completely. This section was built of local volcanic rock with ceramic vases set into it. A terraced roof was built, decorated with marine shells and a mirror. Here Frida’s studio and bedroom was moved. To separate the new from the old, a stone wall divides the patio area in two, in front of which is a fountain, a stepped pyramid, a reflection pool and a room for the couple’s archeological collection. The exterior was also changed from the original French style to the one seen today. The redesign work on the house was done by Juan O’Gorman in 1946. As the couple’s home, the house continued to receive distinguished visitors from both Mexico and abroad, including Fritz Henle, Concha Michel, Dolores del Río, María Félex, Lucha Reyes and Chavela Vargas. Image of Frida for Day of the Dead at the museum
In 1943, Frida became an instructor for the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura de La Esmeralda, but her physical condition required her to mostly give classes at her home. These students eventually numbered only four and were called “Los fridos”: Fanny Rabel, Guillermo Monroy, Arturo “el Güero” Estrada and Arturo García Bustos, who mostly worked and trained in the patio area. Starting in 1945, Frida was once again confined to bed in the house. From then to 1947, she painted works such as Flor de la vida, in 1945 and El sol de la vida in 1947.
Frida died on the upper floor of this house on 13 July 1954 at the age of 47. Her wake took place here before the body was taken to the Palacio de Bellas Artes then cremated. Four years after her death, in 1958, Rivera donated the house to the nation of Mexico and set up a foundation for its preservation. The house was converted to a museum dedicated to the life and works of Kahlo. The first director of the museum was Carlos Pellicer with the mandate to keep the house as it was.
The museum was relatively obscure for many years as Frida Kahlo was little known beyond the art world until the 1990s. In the 1980s, a movement called Neomexicanismo promoted her and her work. Since that time, she has become a cult icon, with images of her appearing on many pop culture items, and many of her works now command high prices. In 2006, Kahlo’s 1943 painting Roots set a US$5.6 million auction record for a Latin American work. The popularity of Frida affected the museum. It closed for a time in the early 1990s, then reopened in 1993, with the addition of a gift shop and restaurant/café. Today, the museum is the most-visited in Coyoacán and one of the most visited in Mexico City.
Restoration work was performed on the building and some of its contents in 2009 and 2010. The work was sponsored in part by the German government, which donated 60,000 euros for the effort, and in part by the museum itself, which contributed one million pesos. The effort concentrates on obtaining furniture for display and preservation, other equipment, roof work, and restoration of items in the collection. Restoration includes most of the paintings in the collection, including Viva la vida, El marxismo dará salud a los enfermos, Frida y la cesárea, Naturaleza muerta con bandera, Retrato de Marta Procel, Retrato de mi familia, Retrato de mi padre Wilhelm Kahlo and Los hornos de ladrillos as well as La quebrada and Paisaje urbano by Rivera, Retrato del niño Don Antonio Villaseñor and Retrato de niño muerto by unknown author, Composición by Wolfgang Paalenk, and Retrato de Diego Rivera by Leopold Gottlieb, along with an archive of 6,500 photographs of Kahlo, Rivera with the friends, family and colleagues done by Nickolas Muray, Martin Munckaci, Fritz Henle and Gisele Freund. The conservation work only covers about 35 percent of the total collection.
The Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo is located in the south of Mexico City and is dedicated to preserving the memory of the muralist and his wife; as well as the study and analysis of his artistic generation.
Commissioned by Diego Rivera, in 1931 Juan O’Gorman designed one of the first functionalist constructions in Latin America: a house for the painter and another for his wife Frida Kahlo, where each would have their own studio. It is about two blocks of smooth concrete that each house a house, one red with white (the painter) and the other blue (for the artist), independent of each other and connected only by a small bridge at the top.
The museum – located in the San Ángel neighborhood of the Álvaro Obregón delegation on an area of 380 square meters – is made up of three buildings: two houses-studios and a photographic laboratory; designed by Mexican architect and artist Juan O’Gorman. Construction began in 1931 and ended the following year, but Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo inhabited it from 1934 on. The reinforced concrete construction system —where the form is derived from the utilitarian function, a principle that O’Gorman defended as the axis of architecture—, allows the electrical installations to be apparent; the concrete slabs of both houses are presented without the plaster finish and only the brick walls are flattened. Asbestos sheets with a blacksmith frame were used in the doors, an exterior helical concrete staircase that connects the various floors of the Painter’s Studio, among others, are the characteristics that base O’Gorman’s functionalist architectural theory: the minimum of expense and striving for maximum utility. The Estudio del Pintor is developed on the ground floor and two floors, the concrete slabs are lightened and apparent, the marquetry is made of structural steel, the roof in the shape of a saw tooth; its finishes show great austerity and economy. Great attention was paid to the natural lighting required for such a study, solved with floor-to-ceiling windows. The use of the open plan is also appreciated, at the level of the accesses supported by light piles. The introduction of these elements in the architecture of that time, constitute one of the most valuable contributions to the modern architecture of the 20th century. The property was created as a museum by presidential decree on April 1, 1981, published in the Official Gazette of the Federation on the 24th of the same month, the aforementioned property, construction and existing objects being incorporated into the public domain and its custody was assigned to the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA). On December 16, 1986 it opened its doors to the public as Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo-INBA, within the framework of the celebrations for the centenary of Diego Rivera’s birth. Then his cultural vocation was defined in the tasks of preservation, conservation, investigation and exhibition of the life and work of Kahlo, Rivera and O’Gorman, as well as contemporary art.
The INBA, aware of the patrimonial and artistic value of the twin houses, restored them between July and December 1995, through its Directorate of Architecture, the Kahlo study house and in the same period of the following year that of Rivera in order to to recover its original appearance. The museum was reopened by President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León on February 28, 1997 and the buildings were declared Artistic Heritage of the Nation on March 25 of the following year. The collection of the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo is made up of the twin houses, today the most important existing example of functionalist architecture that, developed by Le Corbusier, was assimilated and applied by O’Gorman in Mexico. From 1934 Rivera occupied the Studio, where he painted most of his easel work, his watercolors, sketches for murals and some transportable murals and where he died on November 24, 1957 at 11:20 p.m. The house was inherited by her daughter, Ruth Rivera Marín, who donated it to INBA.
Architect: Juan O’Gorman His work was a watershed in modern architecture. The houses built by Juan O’Gorman for Diego and Frida Kahlo are an example of their functionalism architecture, in them the architect plays in an innovative way with double heights, volumes and materials that imprint a particular stamp on the way of inhabiting the space; “The minimum of expenditure and effort for the maximum of utility.”, Is the premise that synthesizes his already classic work within the history of architecture. This new proposal highlights the simplicity of the forms and grants great purity to the construction.
At 24 years of age, and with his first income as a draftsman, Juan O’Gorman bought two tiered tennis courts and in one of them he would explore the possibilities of the new architecture between 1929 and 1931. He first experimented with the construction of a house-studio located on the lowest ground. Although he said it was intended for his father Cecil Crawford O’Gorman, there are reasons to assure that he actually wanted to show it to Diego Rivera, husband of his teenage friend, Frida Kahlo. At the conclusion of it in 1931, he invited Diego, who was very pleasantly impressed. The young architect offered the neighboring court at cost if the painter commissioned him to design and build his studio. The teacher accepted, and what resulted were two study houses, one for him and one for Frida. O’Gorman knew the architectural proposals of the European avant-garde, in particular that of the famous architect Le Corbusier. With these three constructions, he provided innovative solutions in the field of structures, as well as the use of glass and steel, concrete stairs and the visibility of the facilities as an expressive element within the language of modernity. From Mexican popular culture, he integrated the use of exposed clay on some roofs and the coloring of the walls and cactus fences, which resulted in a highly original nationalist cosmopolitanism. Near Cactos Upon being formalized by Diego Rivera, Juan O’Gorman immediately undertook the project in the first half of 1931. A year later he completed the two studio houses, while Diego and Frida were in Detroit. The houses were immediately photographed by Guillermo Kahlo, Frida’s father. It was not until 1934 that the couple moved here. At Diego’s request, the project proposes two multi-story houses. There is also a small workshop and photographic archive. The ground floor of the complex is almost completely free, following the idea of Le Corbusier, and functions as a lobby and living area in both houses, the upper part of which is suspended on pilotis, already present in the house from 1929. Also here the land is It borders cactus fences.
Diego’s house study shows the influence of a famous work by Le Corbusier from 1922; the studio house of the painter Amédée Ozenfant, in Paris, with a serrated roof and an exterior spiral staircase with a concrete handrail. These elements are present in Diego’s study, which is however larger and more complex, as evidenced by the double height area on which an extension of the study is located. Uncovered water tanks, rain pipes, tubular handrails and corbelled ladder Frida’s house does not follow specific models and the exterior staircase leading to the roof represents a remarkable innovation, with corbelled concrete steps and a tubular handrail reduced to a minimum. All the stairs have, in the two buildings, a special architectural relevance. The water tanks, the pipes for the storm drain and the water supply are also visible here, but the thick pipes of the garbage pipes, which go down into small metal pipes, are a novelty. The electrical installations in sight appear again, as well as the tubular handrails, even more abundant.