31orn in 1886 in Guanajuato, Mexico, Rivera demonstrateda precocious artistic talent and began his academictraining as a painter at the age of 12. After living abroadin Paris during the Mexican Revolution (1910 - 1920), hereturned to his homeland to achieve international recognition as amuralist in the 1920s. When he married Kahlo in August 1929, hewas 42 years old, a card-carrying communist, a womanizer and atthe height of his creative powers. In 1931, his solo exhibition at TheMuseum of Modern Art in New York City consolidated his reputationas a world-famous artist and led to major commissions in the UnitedStates to paint murals for the Detroit Institute of the Arts and theRockefeller Center. By the time of his death at the age of 70 in1957, he had produced hundreds of large-scale frescos acclaimedfor their sweeping historical themes and dense figuration, as well asnumerous oil paintings, watercolours, and lithographs.In contrast to Rivera, Kahlo was self-taught as an artist and hercontribution to modern art remained unrecognized outside ofMexico and Surrealist circles until more recently. Born in MexicoCity in 1907, she began to paint while convalescing from a seriousbus accident in 1925, and married Rivera four years later when shewas only 22 years old. As resolute as Rivera in her Marxist beliefs,and adept at flaunting social conventions, she also suffered from illhealth related to complications from the bus accident for the rest ofher life. Painstakingly measured as an artist, she completed lessthan 200 small works, primarily comprised of self-portraits and still-lifes, before she died at the age of 47 in 1954.Today, Kahlo's posthumous fame has made her a celebrity artist.Numerous retrospectives have enshrined her as the most profoundwoman painter of the 20th century, whose self-portraits embodyher physical pain and despair over Rivera's compulsive infidelityand her inability to bear children. A proliferation of biographies,websites, and films about her life and art - most notably the2002 Hollywood movie Fridastarring Selma Hayek - havesecured her cult status in popular culture. The market value of herwork increased accordingly. In 1977, one of Kahlo's mostsignificant paintings, The Tree of Hope, was auctioned for$19,000. By 1996, another of her iconic works, My Roots, waspurchased by an anonymous bidder, rumoured to be the popsinger Madonna, for $5,616,000.Rivera's artistic reputation, on the other hand, declined with theonset of the Cold War and the rise of Abstract Expressionism.Lauded in 1931 as the greatest muralist in the world, by the1960s his communist affiliations had led to his work beingdismissed as political propaganda and cartoonish. Despite majorretrospectives held in Mexico City, London, and Detroit since1986, and auction values that almost rival Kahlo's, Rivera nolonger figures prominently as one of Modernism's iconic artists. Ifhe is known at all outside of Mexico and Latin American artcircles, it is likely to be as Kahlo's much older, philanderinghusband. Bringing Kahlo and Rivera together for the first time inCanada changes this equation. Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Paintingfeatures 85 works bythe two artists from three Mexican collections and additional loansfrom North American museums and private lenders. Theexhibition explores the affinities as well as the differences in theircreative visions that produced an enduring bond between them.On view are many of Kahlo's most significant self-portraits and afull range of Rivera's paintings from his early Cubist experiments,to works derived from his murals, to portraits and landscapes. Accompanying these artworks are over 60 original photographstaken of the artists during their lifetime together, pre-Columbian This fall, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents amajor exhibition of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and DiegoRivera, whose passionate relationship and politicalconvictions were as legendary in their lifetime as theirartistic trajectories are distinct.Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and PaintingBOpposite: Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954). Autorretrato con monos, 1943 (Self-Portrait withMonkeys, 1943). Oil on canvas, 81.5 X 63 cm. The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art. (C) Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D. F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Right: Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957). Flower Festival: Feast of Santa Ana, 1931. Encaustic oncanvas, 199.3 x 162.5 cm. Collection Museum of Modern Art, New York. (C) Banco de México Diego Rivera Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D. F./Artists Rights Society (ARS),New York.
32objects on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum, and a plastercast painted and worn by Kahlo during one of her long periods ofconvalescence. What this unprecedented combination of art,photography, and artifacts reveals is that Kahlo's and Rivera'sdevotion to each other over a quarter century was sustained bytheir belief in the transformative values of mestizaje (the mixingof indigenous and European cultures) and their mutual quest torealize a visual expression for Mexico and its people.Rivera's mission was, in his own words, "to reflect the social life ofMexico as I saw it, and through my vision of the truth to show themasses the outline of the future." Kahlo, who famously declared "Ipaint my own reality," affirmed her independence as a woman andher mestiza identity through an autobiographical lens. Where Riveradepicted the rural protagonists of the 1910 Mexican revolution asthe heart and soul of mestizaje, Kahlo embraced her dual heritageby referencing the popular folk art tradition of anonymous retablosor ex-votos, small paintings on tin asking for divine intervention orrecording a tragedy. For Rivera, nature was aligned in harmonywith an indigenous universe and represented by flowers; for Kahlo,it oscillated between parched earth and enveloping vegetation.While Rivera idealized the revolutionary masses and the pre-Columbian past in his murals, Kahlo kept company with animalsand dolls in her self-portraits. When paired together, theirdistinctive oeuvres --Rivera's expansive and historical, Kahlo'sinward looking and intimate - find common ground in their"vision of the truth" of Mexico's post-revolutionary culture.During their lifetime together, their admiration for each other's"vision of the truth" never faltered. In 1938, Rivera wrote to anAmerican art critic to recommend her, "not as a husband but as anenthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender, hard as steel anddelicate and fine as a butterfly's wing, loveable as a beautifulsmile, and profound and cruel as the bitterness of life." In 1949,Kahlo wrote an essay to accompany Rivera's fifty-year retrospectiveat the National Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico in which she pennedan impassioned defense of his communist ideals and "love of theIndian" as "the living flower of the cultural tradition of theAmericas." A half-century after their deaths separated them assteadfast companions and artists, the Art Gallery of Ontario invitesyou to discover what made them legendary as a couple and to sharein their passion for politics and painting.Left: Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957). El matemático, 1918 (The Mathematician,1918). Oil on canvas, 115.5 X 80.5 cm. Collection Museo Dolores Olmedo,Xochimilco, Mexico. (C) Banco de México Diego Rivera Kahlo Museums Trust,Mexico, D. F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.Right: Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). Mi nana y yo, 1937 (My Nurse and I, 1937).Oil on metal, 30.5 X 35 cm. Collection Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco,Mexico. (C) Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust,Mexico, D.F./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Paintingwill be on display at the Art Galleryof Ontario from October 20, 2012to January 20, 2013. For moreinformation, visit www.ago.net