The nature of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s tumultuous relationship is almost as popular as their work as artists. In the decades that have followed their deaths, the pair’s marriage has been analyzed in academia, studied in the pages of literary journals, and portrayed on screen. Popular descriptions of Rivera and Kahlo’s relationship paint one riddled with infidelities and jealousy. One popular account of Rivera’s various extramarital trysts describes him of having once requested a note from his doctor that insisted he was physically incapable of being faithful, others about Kahlo have detailed her affairs with artists and political figures across the globe.
While the circumstances of their marriage have long been put on displayed and scrutinized, keys to a locked away bathroom in the couple’s former home are unlatching a new set of stories.
For almost fifty years, a collection of thousands of items connected to the couple’s intimate lives have been locked up in a bathroom.
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In 1957, three years after Kahlo’s death and only a month before his own, Diego entrusted a friend, Dolores Olmedo, to ensure the safekeeping of a bathroom in the home he shared with Kahlo called the Blue House. The house, which is located in Mexico City, was turned into a museum dedicated to Kahlo’s life and work. Diego requested that Olmedo wait fifteen years until after his death before unlocking the bathroom which museum curators are now discovering contained thousands of the couple’s intimate possessions.
Their discoveries include items that belonged to Kahlo including her medications, clothes, makeup, photos, even letters exchanged with lovers. The letters include notes from Nickolas Muray, a photographer for Vogue and the New York Times, Soviet politician Leon Trotsky, and sculptor named Isamu Noguchi. According to Broadly, many of the letter include red lipstick kisses pressed to their messages that were made by Kahlo herself.
Kahlo’s newly discovered possessions will be on display in London this summer.
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Hilda Trujillo Soto is director of the Frida Kahlo Museum and says that the items found in the bathroom are a testament to how fully she lived her life despite suffering with much physical pain and anguish. “Kahlo never let her disabilities and personal circumstances define her,” Soto told Broadly in an interview, “she defined who she was in her own terms.”
The bathroom’s contents will be in London this summer on exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
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