Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognisable artists who ever lived. While her likeness has been highly commodified in recent years, the potency of her art and her fanbase is larger than ever — and constantly increasing. Her home, her Blue House, has now become a regular stop for art lovers in Mexico City, who marvel that it remains pretty untouched since she lived there. She’s one of my favourite artists, who created art that was deeply personal, political, surreal, and magical adorned with images of the natural world. I wrote about her as part of my PhD thesis, and will happily talk with anyone about her for a wildly long amount of time. I don’t believe that there is an age limit for learning about art, and the lives of art’s creators, so I was thrilled to see Quarto Book’s Portrait of an Artist: Frida Kahlo created with a younger readership in mind.
Portrait of an Artist: Frida Kahlo
Lucy Brownridge (writer), Sandra Dieckmann (Illustrator)
I absolutely loved this book and even wish it had existed when I was a child. It’s beautiful for one, and brilliantly encapsulates Frida’s life without disrespecting her legacy or belittling younger readers. Writer Lucy Brownridge and illustrator Sandra Dieckmann do not sugarcoat or downplay Frida’s health issues, disability, politics, or relationship with Diego, all of which could have been glossed-over or glamorised. Instead, it’s a respectful, informative account of Frida’s life illustrated and punctuated by her artworks. It will satisfy curious minds and no doubt leave readers wanting to learn more about this incredibly interesting artist.
The art is gorgeous; Dieckmann’s illustrations perfectly captured a smiling Frida’s love for animals and the natural world and has perfectly recreated some of the artist’s most iconic paintings. The vibrant colours depict a smiling, pretty youthful Frida surrounded by sunshine yet does not disguise her disability. The text manages to be both informative and funny without talking downplaying the importance of Frida’s life or her achievements. I especially loved the line: “When they weren’t painting, they campaigned for people of all races and abilities to be respected equally, and for poor people to be paid fairly,” as well as acknowledging that Frida called Diego “her ugly frog Toad.”
Portrait of an Artist: Frida Kahlo is wonderful portrait of an iconic woman that manages to combines art history, art theory, and biography, and although it’s aimed for readers aged 8 – 12, it will appeal to art lovers of all ages.