Frida Kahlo: Could She Paint?

Assessing the art behind the legend
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2007 9:54 PM CST
Zulema Mercado, left, and Beatriz Rosas, dressed as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, pose for tourists at the Frida Kahlo museum on the 100th anniversary of Kalho's birth in Mexico City, Friday, July 6, 2007....   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – 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 birthand 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."