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Frida Kahlo: Her Life, Her Art

IN APRIL 1953, LESS THAN a year before her death at the age of 44, Frida Kahlo had her first major exhibition of paintings in her native country of Mexico. By that time, her health had so deteriorated that no one expected her to attend. But an ambulance drew up to Mexico City’s Gallery of Contemporary Art, and she was carried to the opening on a hospital trolley. Dressed in her favorite Mexican costume, she reclined on her four-poster bed, which she had bedecked with photographs of her political heroes, Malenkov and Stalin. One by one, 200 friends and admirers greeted the painter, then formed a circle around the bed and sang Mexican ballads with her until well past midnight.

The occasion encapsulates as much as it culminates this extraordinary woman’s career. It testifies, in fact, to many of the qualities that marked Kahlo as person and painter: her gallantry and indomitable “alegria” in

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