Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera –
A Marriage of Mismatched Muses
Diego Rivera, close up of his mural, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park”, 1947. The mural has brought forth numerous interpretations, but astrologically it is quite telling with Rivera born under the sign known as “the student of life” of Sagittarius portraying himself as a pre-adolescent student and his wife Frida Kahlo, born beneath the “Mommy sign” of Cancer portrayed as the boy’s mother. Frida holds a Yin/Yang symbol representing their relationship of two very different artistic personalities being brought together as one entity of a married couple. (Your author finds the skeleton’s actual eyes most unsettling.)
Update 2018: It’s very fitting especially in these current political times that two days following “America’s holiday” of July 4th one of Mexico’s most revered artists was born – the great Frida Kahlo. Although she left this world a little over six decades ago, Kahlo’s art becomes ever more internationally popular in the modern day. Mexico’s most beloved artist came into prominence in the 1930’s and died quite young at the age of 47 in 1954. She spent her entire life in her native country, dying in the same house from which she was born. When Frida visited the United States, she did so begrudgingly, out of a sense of obligation to a choice few of the numerous invitations she regularly received from American gallery owners, cultural institutions, and of course her numerous fans on this side of the border. Being a fierce patriot Frida showed her Mexican pride by regularly wearing the traditional clothes and jewelry of her native “Mestizo” culture and hated even the smallest bit of time that took her outside of her “patria” or homeland.
Unlike the poisonous anti-Mexican propaganda our current Administration would have everyone wholeheartedly believing these days, although she was a Mexican, Frida Kahlo was neither a rapist nor a drug dealer. In fact the woman had no criminal record, whatsoever. She was, in actuality, an artist of international renown who received the highest accolades for her work, such as in 1939 when Paris’ Louvre Museum purchased her painting “The Frame” making Frida not only the first person from Mexico but from the Americas to have her art added to its permanent collection.
Kahlo’s artistic medium was mainly through painting self portraits with “Identity” being a theme that dominated her work, given during the mid 20th century racism was overtly directed towards Latinos, especially against Mexicans in particular. It is with the intent of counterbalancing the prejudice that is currently prevalent throughout this country against America’s next door neighbors to the south, that Brad would like to celebrate one of Mexico’s most precious of cultural treasures by posting his piece about Frida Kahlo on the day which marks the 111th anniversary of her birth.
For those not familiar with her work, don’t bother even reading this article, just scroll down to the bottom and let your eyes get their first taste of the dreamy feast that is Kahlo’s art! May this piece serve as an entry way for those who have yet to discover this astounding artist whose world was both steeped in tradition yet was utterly unique unlike any other.
A world that was fiercely and unapologetically Mexican.
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton. Natalie Wood & Robert Wagner. Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson. Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee
The list of famous couples who have married each other twice over is further expanded when the world of High Art is added to the mix. Joined in miserable matrimony to this romantically select group of on-again/off-again/on-once-again Drama Kings and Queens are two of Mexico’s greatest embodiments of artistic and cultural pride – Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera.
She, born beneath the sign associated with “Home” and “Family”, Cancer on July 6th, 1907, left this world in the same house in which she first entered it and became an artist only after a massive traffic accident re-routed her life and robbed her of that which she desired most – the ability to conceive. Her fierce sense of pride for her ethnicity and her country was reflected by her day to day dress, wearing traditional native costumes of bright colors and elaborate jewelry.
He, born beneath the sign of globe trotting and foreign travel, Sagittarius, on December 8th, 1886, was already an artist of great renown upon first meeting her, having spent a decade in the renowned Artist’s Quarter of Paris with the likes of such artistic greats as Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Amedeo Modigliani. True to his travel loving sign, he traversed the globe before returning to his native homeland and falling madly in love with both it…. and her.
She painted mostly self portraits that intimately depicted her deepest personal pain and individualized emotions by using profound imagery that on many levels was universally archetypal.
He painted mostly sweeping murals, which depicted the political forces of change happening to the global masses at the time, as well as portrayed his take on the big pictured motion of History as it related to the national identity of his people.
Her small framed body was besieged with never ending health problems and became even smaller over time, due to the thinning and eventual amputation of her right leg from the ravages of both disease and traumatic injury.
His frame was naturally large and became even larger when his lust for food surpassed his lust for women, resulting in his corpulence weighing well over 300 pounds at the hedonistic height of his pleasure pursuits.
In all the Art World, if ever there was an “unobvious” pairing of creatively gifted minds both bound and unbound by the institution of marriage, it was Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
When the two wed in 1929, he, the giant of both artistic and literal stature was 20 years older than she, the traumatically fragile pixie. Kahlo, herself, described her wedding day as “the marriage of the elephant to the dove.” A statement both astrologically apropos as it was observant, given the animal associated with the sign ruled by the biggest planet of the Solar System, Sagittarius is one of the largest in all the Animal Kingdom, the elephant, and the only bird that produces its own milk from which they feed their young with, the dove, is associated with the “Mommy” sign of Cancer.
Both artists seemed the archetypal embodiments of their astrological Sun signs. Frida, the highly sensitive Cancer whose paintings, like the Moon ruled tides themselves, expressed the ebb and flow of the vast waters of her inner most emotions. Diego, the larger than life Sagittarian, whose artwork was a big pictured reflection of the two areas of Life which lay beneath the domain of the House his sign rules naturally over, namely Politics & Foreign Culture.
Intriguingly, both artistic greats were born as well as died within the range of dates assigned to each of their respective birth signs.
Even Kahlo’s and Rivera’s character flaws and shortcomings mirrored the unevolved aspects of each of their respective signs along with their strongest personality traits. At the age of 18, both Frida’s body and psyche were permanently altered when a trolley collided head on into the bus she was riding on her way home from school, causing massive injuries all over her body, including severe damage to the body part assigned to Cancer. Kahlo’s uterus was pierced with a metal rod and her pelvis was crushed, rendering her unable to bear children and a volatility of mood that would make anyone run for dear life whenever triggered.
Rivera’s huge physicality was matched only by his fiery lust for variation. His extra-marital cheating was so excessively constant (his list of adulterous conquests included Frida’s younger sister, Cristina), that upon being re-married to Kahlo, the Sagittarian muralist unabashedly presented before his twice betrothed wife a medical certificate which stated that he was “medically incapable of fidelity”.
From the start, the marriage of Mexico’s two greatest artists was tumultuous and rocky at best. Even during their married years which many say were their happiest, Frida and Diego owned a compartmental home that had a centralized middle area with his living quarters located to the far left and hers to the far right.
Despite their numerous marital differences, the Cancer and the Sagittarian shared an astrological bond which turned out to be the glue that allowed their relationship to survive; a bond not so well known even among astrologers. The heavenly body called “The Great Benefic”, better known as Jupiter is the planetary ruler of the sign of Sagittarius and by virtue of it being the largest planet in our Solar System is associated with the themes of expansion, blessings, and overall positivity, just to name a fortuitous few.
Jupiter naturally rules over the sign of Sagittarius but the Planet associated most with Luck and Good Fortune functions best in, or is “exalted” in the lunar ruled sign of Cancer. Why? Who better than the naturally nurturing, mother-like sign of the Crab to best share and spread the bounty of the King of Planet’s abundance.
Although Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera never had the most harmonious of marriages, the astrological tables completely turn over when considering the couple’s artistic legacies as individuals through their astrological influence over each other in the most effective ways possible.
In spite of the Cancer’s irritable dislike for every other culture besides her own, in 1939 the Louvre in Paris bought Frida’s painting, “The Frame”, making it part of the famed museum’s permanent collection. The moody Mexicana made international artistic history by becoming the first 20th century Latin artist to have their work added to the Louvre’s prestigious list of permanent paintings which contain the most well recognized pieces of Art throughout all of history.
Inversely, the man who traveled the globe, was friends with such artistic behemoths known the world over such as Picasso, and whose portrait was famously painted during his Bohemian years in Paris by the Cancerian modernist, Amedeo Modigliani, has been lauded for being an artist whose work changed how his birth country of Mexico was viewed by the rest of the world.
Mexican Art expert and critic, Gregorio Luke, gave his highest form of aesthetic praise to the Sagittarian muralist when he was quoted as saying that Diego Rivera’s body of artwork has become “the collective language of his nation.”
Her highly personalized artwork making international cultural history. His large scale, sweeping artwork becoming the cultural voice of his native homeland.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera may have found it close to impossible to harness their individual forces of creative self expression within their marriage, however their influence over each other has allowed for these mismatched Muses to inspire the world at large with their artistic legacies that are like no other and expansively grow more and more with the passage of Time.
The wedding portrait of the “elephant and the dove“. The giant man and his pixie sized bride would eventually divorce but would marry yet again a second time.
Despite her death over six decades ago, Frida Kahlo’s artwork grows ever more popular today. (fridakahlo.org)
“The Frame” by Frida Kahlo was purchased in 1939 by the Louvre, making it the first Latino work of art to be a part of the museum’s permanent collection. (wikiart.org)
“Portrait of Diego Rivera” by the great portrait painter, Amedeo Modigliani, 1914
In 1940, Diego Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural for the San Francisco World’s Fair. Entitled “Pan American Unity” the massive painting includes a portrait of Frida Kahlo depicted as an ancient Mexican goddess (lower left). (wikiart.org)
“Pan American Unity” by Diego Rivera, 1940. Note Frida Kahlo is located at the bottom center.
On the first day of Cancer, June 21st, 2001 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp depicting one of Frida’s self portraits.
A display of the various braces Frida Kahlo had to wear on a daily basis located at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico. Photo by Daniel Duford.
Brad Kronen has written not just additional articles on other prominent artists whose influence has affected our world, he wrote an entire book on the man whom he considers to be the most innovative of them all – the leader of the group of revolutionary Russian artists known as “the Russian Avant-Garde” named Alexander Rodchenko. Entitled “A Series of Unfortunate Sagittarian Events, Part II – Alexander Rodchenko” this wholly unique book which focuses on the life of an artist whose work was decades ahead of its time is available for purchase on amazon.com. Just click on the Space Age teapot below to see a complete listing of that book along with the rest of Brad’s published written work: