Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera –
A Marriage of Mismatched Muses
Honoring the 110th Anniversary of Frida Kahlo’s birth, July 6th, 1907
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton. Natalie Wood & Robert Wagner. Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson. Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee
The list of famous couples who’ve 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, 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, 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, which intimately depicted her deepest personal pain and individualized emotions.
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“.
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 Dan Duford.
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.