Mexican icon, tragic figure, feminist saint: Frida Kahlo has generated such a potent legend that her painting is often an afterthought. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her birth—and a retrospective at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis—New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldalh revisits her work, and finds it more than worthy. "She is a better artist than any of the Surrealists except Salvador Dali at his best," he writes.
She made some weak "and even a few perfectly awful " paintings, Schjeldahl writes, "but her self-portraits cannot be overpraised." The power of the paintings can only be absorbed in person, he writes, noting that "the tactility of certain self-portraits is, among other things, staggeringly sexy." Her work, he writes, places her permanently "among the winnowed elect of twentieth-century painters."