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The most comprehensive book about Frida published today by Taschen

21 July 2021

The massive 624-page book by Taschen, titled "Frida Kahlo. The Complete Paintings", offers for the first time a survey of her entire oeuvre.

The book, edited by Mexican art historian Luis-Martín Lozano with contributions from Andrea Kettenmann and Marina Vázquez Ramos, provides notes on every single Kahlo work we have images of – 152 in total, including many lost works we only know from photographs.

Diary pages, letters, drawings, an illustrated biography, and hundreds of photos taken by Edward Weston, Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo, Nickolas Muray, and Martin Munkácsi show moments from Kahlo’s life with her husband Diego Rivera and of the Casa Azul, her home in Mexico City. Numerous of the pieces included haven’t been displayed freely in more than 80 years.

BBC journalist Holly Williams spoke to Lozano on a video call from Mexico City, and  asked if a comprehensive survey of her work is overdue, despite there being so many shows about her all over the world.

"As an art historian, my main interest in Kahlo has been in her work as an artist. If this had been the main concern of most projects in recent decades, maybe I would say this book has no reason to be. But the truth is, it hasn't," he says. "Most people at exhibitions, they're interested in her personality – who she is, how she dressed, who does she go to bed with, her lovers, her story."

Because of this, exhibitions and their catalogues have often focused on that story, and tend to "repeat the same paintings, and the same ideas about the same paintings. They leave aside a whole bunch of works," says Lozano. Books also re-tread the same ground: "You repeat the same things, and it will sell – because everything about Kahlo sells. It's unfortunate to say, but she's become a merchandise. But this explains why [exhibitions and books] don't go beyond this – because they don't need to."

The result is that certain mistakes get made – paintings mis-titled, mis-dated, or the same poor-quality, off-colour photographs reproduced. But it also means that ideas about what her works mean get repeated ad infinitum. "The interpretation level becomes contaminated," suggests Lozano. "All they say about the paintings, over and over, is 'oh it's because she loved Rivera', 'because she couldn't have a kid', 'because she's in the hospital'. In some cases, it is true – but there's so much more to it than that."

 (Read the complete interview in the BBC article)

See in this Vogue article a few photographs of Casa Azul – many of which have never been seen before - published in the book

Browse a few pages of the book at the link below.