Rather like Mariana, the young girl in Laurence Anholt’s new book about Frida Kahlo, I have been a little scared of Frida. She seems so different, and intimidating. She’s not, of course, and now both I and Mariana know this.
As in Laurence’s other books about famous artists, Mariana is a real child from Frida’s real life. Her father was a wealthy art collector, and Frida painted portraits of everyone in his family, and Mariana was the last to sit for Frida.
During the time it took for her portrait to be painted, Mariana learned about Frida’s life, including the accident that almost killed her, and why Frida always wore long skirts, and about her husband Diego Rivera. By the end of the painting the two were firm friends. Not even the skeleton above Frida’s bed scared her any more.
I love these artist’s life books! I actually have a whole pile here at the moment, because I’ve been hoarding them. Frida Kahlo is new, but the ones about Matisse, Degas and Cézanne have recently been reissued and they are so enjoyable.
Matisse might have been my favourite. Except I really loved Degas. And Cézanne was touching. So I don’t know. Either all these artists were really special and lovely people, or Laurence knows how to make them appear so. I especially admire the way he uses children and young people close to the artists to show what they were like as human beings, and not just the way we view these famous painters now. Life wasn’t always a bed of roses back when the painting was happening.
I do like Matisse’s chapel!