Moscow hosted a unique retrospective of two greatest Mexican artists: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The exhibition featured about 100 works created by this legendary pair: paintings, drawings, lithographs, as well as numerous photographs and a documentary about Frida's life and work. All this makes up the exhibition "¡VIVA LA VIDA!
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The exhibition is divided into 2 parts dedicated to Rivera and Kahlo respectively. The first thing we see when we enter are the biographies of the artists. Each one has a different story.
Rivera was a great artist of large paintings, an apologist for the Mexican Revolution and the godfather of street art. Diego wrote a lot about ordinary people, workers, their families and lives.

Frida, on the other hand, preferred small format paintings, her works are a very personal story of love, rebellion and physical sufferings. Mexican folk motifs and the influence of French primitivism, a great passion and no less great pain: Frida's art simultaneously attracts and repels, leaving no one indifferent.
It is important to note that when the masters met, Rivera was already famous and considered a much more significant artist than just emerging Frida. Now, on the contrary, Frida's works sell for millions of dollars. Her painting "Two Nudes in a Forest" was sold for $8 million at auction at Christie's in 2016, and it became a record for art works by Latin American artists.
Frida Kahlo de Rivera was born in 1907 in Mexico. She suffered polio at the age of 6, left with a limp and her right leg became thinner than her left one, so she hid it under long skirts all her life. Such an early experience of fighting for a full life made her strong as a person.

From an early age, she was involved in boxing and other sports. At 15, she enrolled at Preparatoria, one of Mexico's top schools, to study medicine. Out of 2000 students in the school, only 35 were girls. It was here, at Preparatoria, that she first saw her future husband, the Mexican artist Diego Rivera, working at the school to paint a mural.
In 1925, at the age of 18 a serious accident happened in Frida's life. The bus she was riding in collided with a trolley. Frida sustained serious injuries: triple fractures of the spine, fractures of the collarbone, pelvis, legs and many broken ribs. In addition, her abdomen and uterus were literally punctured by a metal railing. She was confined to bed for a year and her health problems lasted a lifetime.
Frida subsequently had to undergo 32 serious operations, staying in hospitals for long months. Since then, she has continually referred to the theme of pain and suffering in her art, constantly re-examining what happened.

It was after the accident that Frida asked her father for brushes and paints for drawing for the first time. A special stretcher was built for her, allowing to paint lying down. A large mirror was affixed under the canopy of the bed so she could see herself. Her first painting was a self-portrait, which forever determined the main direction in art. It was her self-portraits that brought her fame in the future.

"I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know the best."

The accident greatly altered Frida's perception of life, with allegory, mysticism and miracles appearing in her paintings. Health problems and subsequent events - unsuccessful pregnancies, abortions, her husband's regular infidelities - all unsettled an already traumatised psyche.

Frida fell in love with Diego in her teens, but she sought the love of the great Mexican macho for a long time. Frida's meeting with her future husband occurred thanks to her painting, when having recovered strength after an accident, Frida brought her first works to be appraised by the vaunted painter Rivera.
Diego Rivera was 20 years older than Frida, graceless, fat and adored by women. The list of his mistresses was incalculable. And yet, Frida vowed to marry him and bear his son.
The first came true - a temperamental cripple with unibrow finally conquered the heart of the famous painter.

From 1944 until her death in 1954, Frida kept a diary. For 40 years it lay in a closed archive of the Mexican government before it was published, instantly becoming a bestseller. Frida Kahlo's diary is 170 pages of watercolours and collages, memories of childhood, notes of illness and anguished love for her husband:
"There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego. Beginning. Diego. Diego, my child. Diego, my bridegroom. Diego. Painter. Diego, my lover. Diego, my husband. Diego, my friend. Diego, my father. Diego, my mother. Diego. I. Diego. Universe."

Rivera himself liked to portray himself as a fat toad with someone's heart in his hand, telling:
"If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait."

Eventually, Rivera debauched Kahlo's younger sister, Cristina, which was the last straw, and he and Frida divorced. But a year later they married again, Frida could not live without Diego. She didn't turn out to be a respectable wife, though. She drank, smoked, swore, had affairs, including lesbian ones. For a long time, Frida's relationship with Trotsky was not made public. In the 1960s, Diego's Communist paintings were very popular in the USSR, but nobody ever mentioned his wife. Frida's illness, meanwhile, was progressing..

For her first solo exhibition in Mexico, she was transported by ambulance and wheeled into the hall on a gurney. Smiling, with a flower in her hair and an ever-present cigarette.
She tried waltzing in the wheelchair and drew butterflies on her cast.
"I laugh at death, lest it take away the best that is in me...".

Frida Kahlo painted this picture eight days before she died:

"Viva la vida!" - "Long Live Life!"

She painted it lying down, with her leg amputated, writing in the end:

"I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return. Frida."

On July 13, 1954, she died. She was 47 years old.
Still, the best words in Frida's diary, which should be everyone's slogan, are these:
" Tree of Hope, Remain Strong!"

Author Anna Laza
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