We had wanted to visit The Blue House, Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City, for a many years. We have always been fascinated by the iconic artist’s life and had been to several exhibitions of her work in both London and Toronto. Consequently, finally making it to the house where she was born, died and lived much of her life was a dream come true.
Frida’s Early Life
Frida’s life was full of tragedy, loss and pain. However, she remained a spirited and forceful character despite the challenges she was faced with and was a passionate political activist throughout her life. Frida was born in 1907, the third of four daughters and The Blue House (Casa Azul) was her childhood home. At six years old, Frida was diagnosed with polio which withered her right leg and stunted growth in her foot. She tried to hide it from her parents. By the time they discovered her condition, it was too late for treatment.
A Horrific Accident
When Frida was eighteen, she was involved in a horrific accident when a tram crashed into the wooden bus she was on. She was impaled on a handrail and her pelvis and spine were shattered. She consequently spent a month in hospital. Although she was eventually able to walk again, her injury affected her both physically and mentally for the rest of her life. The aftermath of the accident also greatly influenced her art.
Frida and Diego
Frida and the muralist Diego Rivera had a tumultuous relationship and were known as ‘The Dove and the Elephant’. They married twice and there were numerous infidelities throughout the years. Frida had affairs with both men and women. Diego’s affairs were numerous and included Cristina, Frida’s sister. They lived in Casa Azul when they re-married for a second time until Frida died aged 47, a year after having had her leg amputated at the knee. Four years later, in 1958, the house made into a museum.
The Blue House is located in the neighbourhood of Coyoacan, an attractive suburb of Mexico City. Situated on a corner of Calle Londres, you can’t miss the building due to its striking blue cobalt colour. It is also just down the road from Leon Trotsky’s house, with whom Frida had an affair. Although much more austere, his home is also worth a visit and was the scene of his assassination.
The Blue House
As you enter Casa Azul, colourful paper-mache figures loom over the entrance hall. The bohemian vibe makes it immediately apparent that you are entering the house of artists. Both the house and personal belongings have been perfectly preserved. As well as a few of Frida’s paintings and some of Diego’s ceramics, the couple have an extensive collection of works by other artists. There are a combination of pre-Hispanic, colonial and Mexican influences throughout the house and gardens.
As you walk around the house, there is evidence of Frida’s everyday struggles including her crutches, wheelchair together with the corset that she had to wear to support her back. Her final painting is still placed on an easel unfinished. Her bed has a mirror looking down upon it which was used for the many self-portraits which she painted. The bright yellow kitchen is decorated with colourful ceramics.
The garden that Frida so loved is still flourishing with native yuccas, cacti and canna-lily as well as bougainvillea. Aztec and Toltec sculptures are scattered throughout the grounds. Back in the day, the garden was full of Frida’s pets including her spider monkey, a deer along with a number of hairless dogs. She also had cats, the descendants of which roam the garden to this day.
The Spirit Lives On
The house is incredibly evocative and it’s easy to imagine the raucous parties that took place and the presence of the many artists and intellectuals who visited the couple at Casa Azul. Although Frida’s struggles are very much in evidence, so is her passion for art, animals, activism and life itself. Indeed, the spirit of Frida Kahlo is very much alive at Casa Azul and spending time at the house was an experience we will never forget.