R.I.P.

Revealed: The Many Faces of Frida Kahlo Beneath the Glamorous Mask of Fame

Sixty-four years ago today, July 13th, Frida Kahlo died at just 47 years old, possibly by suicide, following a stormy year in which she developed gangrene and an addiction to the painkillers she needed for the many surgeries she’d recently undergone. Oh, and she also had her right leg amputated—and, somehow, after years of being practically bed-bound, managed to attend the opening of her first-ever solo exhibition. Her will is just one reason why Kahlo’s icon status endures today—and it’s also just one example of how the “Frida” everyone knows on a first-name basis has been glamorized. She may be considered Barbie material these days, but as her signature unibrow suggests, Kahlo never shied from depicting her true, damaged self in the many, many self-portraits she created over the course of her career. Some were allegorical, but her literal devotion to depicting the truth can now be seen more clearly than ever at London’s Victoria & Albert museum through November, in the (Grosvenor Britain & Ireland-sponsored) exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” where a number of her paintings have been paired with the real-life dresses that they depict. Until recently, they’d been locked away in the Casa Azul just like Kahlo was at the end of her life; along with the many, many other objects—some of which have just left Mexico for the first time—they make for a more accurate (and genuine) idea of Frida. Get to know her a little better via this look inside the show, along with portraits of her with guest stars like one of her pet monkeys and Leon Trotsky, whom she had an affair with shortly before he was murdered in Mexico with an ice pick.

1
© Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Frida Kahlo with Olmec figurine, photographed by Nickolas Muray, 1939. Featured in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” on view until November 2018 at the V&A.

2
Bettmann/Getty Images

Frida Kahlo holding one of her pet monkeys in Mexico City, photographed in 1944.

3
Keystone-France/Getty Images

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo visiting an exhibition of portraits by Lionel Reiss in New York, photographed in 1933.

4
© 2017 Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums, Av. 5 de Mayo, No. 2, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc, CP 06000, Mexico City

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1941. Featured in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” on view until November 2018 at the V&A.

5
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Friday Kahlo wearing a folk costume and lying on a hammock, photographed circa 1950.

6
© 2017 Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums, Av. 5 de Mayo, No. 2, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc, CP 06000, Mexico City

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1948. Featured in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” on view until November 2018 at the V&A.

7
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with their pet dog in Mexico City, photographed in the 1940s.

8
Bettmann/Getty Images

Frida Kahlo, posing with her 1939 painting The Two Fridas, which features a version of herself in Tehuana costume, holding hands and sharing an artery with a modern-day version of herself. Photographed in 1939, shortly after she divorced Diego Rivera.

9
Ivan Dmitri/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Frida Kahlo at the architect Juan O’Gorman-designed home and studio in Mexico City which she shared with Diego Rivera, photographed circa 1940.

10
Bettmann/Getty Images.

Frida Kahlo with Leon Trotsky, his wife Natalia Sedova, and his associate Max Schachtman in Tampico, Mexico, photographed in 1937, the year that he was granted asylum in Mexico after being exiled from the Soviet Union, and that he and Kahlo began having an affair.

11
Fotosearch/Getty Images

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, photographed circa 1932.

12
© Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

Frida Kahlo in blue satin blouse, photographed by Nickolas Muray, 1939. Featured in the exhibition “Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up,” on view until November 2018 at the V&A.

13
Bettmann/Getty Images

Frida Kahlo, photographed smoking a cigarette in her home in Mexico City.