ART: The Hybrid Sources of Frida Kahlo


John Zarobell, the Coordinating Curator for the Frida Kahlo exhibit held recently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, analyzes the Mexican painter’s influences. Includes a selection of Kahlo's work from the recent exhibition.

Frida Kahlo was an exceptionally original artist whose paintings sometimes seem to emerge from her consciousness and experience without prior mediation. While Kahlo was an innovative artist who possessed a highly particular vision, it is not true that her art is without sources. The problem is that few art historians outside Mexico are familiar with the pictorial source material from which she drew her inspiration. Many scholars have documented the interest of Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera in Pre-Columbian sculpture and Mexican folk art, but her other influences are less well-known. This article will look at Kahlo’s art in relation to a body of sources including 19th-century Mexican portraiture, European modernist art, and Spanish colonial painting in order to provide a more complete picture of the resources she deployed in generating her unforgettable imagery.

John Zarobell
Publication date: 
August 21, 2008
Publication type: 
Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies Article