A new documentary says that Frida Kahlo was suffering so much that she asked Diego Rivera to help end her life.
The new three-part BBC series, Becoming Frida Kahlo, features an interview with Rivera’s grandson, Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera, where he says that his grandfather “probably” ended Kahlo’s life as an act of love.
Coronel Rivera, a Mexican art journalist and photographer, says,
If your companion of life says,
‘I’m tired, I really want to go now, help me’
– well, maybe you try.”
Kahlo, a polio survivor, she was also severely injured in a car accident, had several miscarriages, which is portrayed in a series of powerful paintings. Kahlo expert Luis-Martin Lozano told The Guardian,
I agree one 100% with Juan.
Frida’s family always had this idea that she could have been alive for some years. It is sad to say, but suicide was always also a possibility. Kahlo wrote about it in her diary, but her love for Diego prevented her.
She did not want to leave him. But the issue must have come up between them.”
The documentary looks at key creative moments in Kahlo’s career in the light of new evidence about her state of mind and physical health. Rivera who first spotted Kahlo’s artistic gifts, kept a tight grip on her heart until her death in 1954, at 47.
Lozano, who appears in the series, says,
Rivera was careful. He never told her how to paint, he had too much respect.
He was her first fan and told her to be herself. He realised she had potential and encouraged her to go on. He was a great provider for her, at the same time, and you cannot deny she would not have blossomed so well without him.
Rivera provided stability but her paintings are hers.”
The final phase of Kahlo’s life, back in Mexico City where she lived apart from Rivera, saw the amputation of her leg and her dependence on drugs and alcohol to deal with her pain her doubts about her worth as an artist.
At the time she wrote to Rivera,
They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived … I am not afraid of pain and you know it.
It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women.”
Lozano explains that Rivera avoided her during the day because he found her pain hard to witness,
We will never know if he ended her life, but if she asked him, I don’t see him saying ‘no’.
Kahlo’s family have also talked about the possibility that he helped her die. Her niece said a little about this, although it may be taboo in Rivera’s family.
Kahlo must not be victimized, although there’s obviously a lot of pain in the iconography. You can admire the quality and the craftsmanship and her work at the same time. I don’t think she should be seen as a martyr.
Her painting is not all about pain. It’s about a woman becoming an artist. She was a true pioneer.”
Frida Kahlo was given a state funeral at Mexico City’s Palace of Fine Arts. You can read more about her in WOW Report writer Stephen Rutledge‘s tribute here.
One of her most famous self-portraits, featuring a small image of Rivera on her own forehead, sold at auction recently for $35 million, one of the highest amounts ever for a female artist.
#AuctionUpdate: Frida Kahlo’s ‘Diego y yo (Diego and I)’ was acquired by the Eduardo F. Costantini Collection, a renowned collector with a longstanding commitment to supporting Latin American art and artists, and founder of Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. pic.twitter.com/Us3sZNZZhN— Sotheby’s (@Sothebys) November 17, 2021
(Photos, Youtube; via The Guardian)