Inside Frida Kahlo’s Studio

Inside Frida Kahlo's Studio

Frida Kahlo’s Studio is upstairs from the main living quarters of her family home, affectionately known as “Casa Azul”, the blue house.

Now the Frida Kahlo Museum, her home, studio and and grounds are open to visitors. It’s located in the Coyacan neighborhood in Mexico City.

At first I declined to pay extra for the permission to take photos.

Usually museum photography never works out well. Too dimly lit. Can’t get close enough. Better postcard of the scenes I want in the gift shop.

So, I wandered the house, with most of the main living rooms turned into galleries.

It wasn’t until I climbed up the staircase to Frida’s studio, that I got hit with a visceral wallop of emotion.

I couldn’t hold back my tears.

I felt something so strong. Entering the studio of an artist I’ve admired for so long.

It was the reason for this particular pilgrimage to Mexico City.

Imagining the years Frida was confined to a wheelchair, she would have had to have been carried up to her studio.

There were her paints and supplies on display, but something far more intriguing to me caught my eye.

I turned and went back downstairs, against the traffic of a large tour group.

Trying to hide my tears, (there goes another crazy American), making a bee-line back to the front desk to a my photographer pass.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Studio

Here are a few more shots of her paints…before I get to my favorite part.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico CityInside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

 In the throng of tourists, no one took much notice of the library of books in Frida’s studio.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

That’s my friend, Rubén, a used book seller from Mexico City. He and I joined forces to open a teeny used bookshop in Oaxaca, because there wasn’t one. So we’re probably biased when it comes to book browsing.

Glass doors cover the book cases, keeping out the significant amount of dirt and dust that is the downside of indoor/outdoor living in Mexico.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Rubén asked me to photograph every single shelf, so he could hunt for those titles and create a similar display in the bookstore: Books that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have on their shelves. Or something like that.

A glimpse of me photographing, and Rubén salivating, over the books…in the reflection of the glass doors…

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Taking up several shelves, are wooden file boxes that Frida decorated.

This is my favorite part. Let’s look closer.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

It looks like Frida painted over the plain wood with white paint before she decorated with collage and added titles.

Look at the metal star she glued on in the middle (photo below, top) above a page from an old book.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Prensa  = The Press, in Spanish.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Banco = Bank in Spanish. That one’s easy. The Barrel image is from Mexican lotteria cards. The Barrel is a symbol for prosperity.

Frida was visualizing prosperity! You think?

 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

File box #12: Frida kept a box of clippings from the mural of Diego’s that the Rockefeller’s commissioned and then had torn down.

Love the art deco typography. Yellowed, so probably from an NYC newspaper.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Oficiales  = Documents, or Correspondence, in Spanish.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

I love how Frida coded her files with lotteria cards. The heart with the knife through it on Diego’s box of letters is not a surprise here.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Diego gets a diablo lotteria card too. 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Recibos y Facturas  = Bills & Invoices, in Spanish.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

A big fat dollar sign. 

I wonder if Frida clipped this out of a newspaper in the USA? Isn’t it fun to imagine Frida traveling and collecting collage ephemera?

Maybe it’s just me…but I take some sort of strange comfort in that thought. I’m not the only one?

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

This box on the right, with the newspaper stencil guy, is my favorite. So I saved it for last.

I wonder what’s in that file box?

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Across from the bookcase wall, is where Frida set up her easel and a couple of small tables for supplies.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Hexagon clay tiles! Deliciously uneven, hand made, chipping.

Shhh…dont’ tell, but hen the guards weren’t looking I slipped off my sandals to walk across barefoot.

Is that weird?

 

Before we go, I want to show you the only decoration she had on her wall: 

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

A big, framed medical school poster, Intra-Uterine Life.

In English, published by Dr. G.H. Michel & Co., Cleveland, Ohio.

Could Frida have picked this out after she had the miscarriage in Detroit?

Oh, Frida..you confronted the pain of life head on.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

I told you museum photography sucks – especially with my iPhone!

When I went to get a close up, the reflection made this sort of sacred child image with the agave plant outside.

I think Frida would have liked it’s surreal quality.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

Mexican houses are built around hidden courtyard. Interior windows, facing in to the courtyard, bring in light.

This is a huge reason I love living in Mexico. The light. The interior-facing windows. The light!

Not that my apartment is this fancy or anything. But I do have a wall of windows facing a courtyard. Private and magical.

Inside Frida Kahlo's Art Studio, Mexico City

The is a shot from the outside stairway leading from Frida’s studio bedroom to the courtyard.

The little bedroom is tucked in more of a foyer, than a private room. I’m guessing that Frida’s small bed came up to her studio when she became wheelchair-bound.

The twin bed is from her childhood, with a mirror on top. Her father put the mirror in so she could make self-portraits when she was first injured in the trolley accident.

On the left are windows to Frida’s studio. The right windows are a larger bedroom.

I have a bunch more photos from the rest of the house and gardens…will share those in another post.

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About Lisa Sonora

Lisa Sonora is an artist and creative business consultant. She is the author of The Creative Entrepreneur.

25 Responses to Inside Frida Kahlo’s Studio

  1. Kirsten Alicia March 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Thank you so much for getting a photography pass & sharing these photos, I have examined every wonderful detail. I hope I get to visit the Blue House one day, but until then, these make me happy.

  2. Sandra March 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    What a wonderful post, Lisa! I’m so glad you took pics and shared with us, so we can all live vicariously through you!

    Weren’t you just dying to see what is in those binders?? And look through the books for little handwritten notes, perhaps or… gulp… sketches???

    Great shot of the baby reflecting the plant outside :) I love your eyes. Thanks for writing this post.

  3. Lori franklin March 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Oh my gosh!!!!! I just LOVE all your photos, I am so glad that you decided to take them!!!! The bookshelf is fascinating and those FILES!!!!! what an absolute goldmine of inspiration…I have visions swirling around already…wow.
    Have been to Oaxaca, hope to return again, would like to visit your bookshop!

    beautiful post, thank you!

  4. Sonia March 29, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    O-M-G!!! I was there about 13 years ago. I remember some of these scenes, but definitely missed the bookshelf details. I am SOOOO doing the wooden box with Loteria cards for my home….LOVE them. Thanks for sharing your pictures. I am a huge Frida Kahlo fan. My son was only 18 months old when I went, but I so have to take him back! This one has been back on my bucket list for a while. Thanks again!!

  5. bev langby March 29, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Lisa thank u so much u made my day , i first learnt of Frida when i was in high school and im 65 now lol but to go see this is my dream , u lived my dream , dont think i will ever get there now ,,i cant thank u enough for sharing this and i got tears in my eyes when i saw the wheelchair near the easel … oh i have u on my google reader and love your work and blog ……
    hugz bev

  6. Tara March 31, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I enjoyed this post so much! I visited Frida Kahlo’s house several years ago and it’s still one my favourite things I’ve done while travelling. I seem to remember tearing up too. I don’t remember those bookshelves with the decorated files so I’m so glad you noticed them and shared them here. It’s these little details that make the lives of others even more fascinating, I think.

  7. ellen gradman April 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    These picture are incredible! I LOVE seeing artist studios, especially artist I admire. What someone places in her studio is so personal and meaningful. The photographs of Frida’s art supplies are a treasure. The pictures you took are the exact ones I would have taken. Thank You for posting!
    Ellen

  8. LaRayne Blumenstein April 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    I LOVE the way you see the world, with your eyes and your heart. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photographs and your very personal and touching reaction to what you were seeing and feeling. I love that you took your sandals off so you could feel the tiles on your feet. Not strange at all. I would have felt compelled to do the same!

  9. Janet Ghio July 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    thanks so much for sharing these photos. We went to Mexico around 2002-2003. The highlight of my trip was visiting Casa Azul! We were on a tour and the whole tour bus had to wait on me-but they were very nice about it. The funny thing is that i don’t remember being in her studio–maybe I was just so overwhelmed with the experience that it was all just too much to take in at once.

  10. Francoise DLC August 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    What a delight! When I visisted, I was overwhelmed too! I am so glad you spend the right time and attention on this wonderful library, especially all the file displays!! Thank you so much!!

  11. Anne Barlow August 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post! I adore Frida and I so appreciate seeing her studio and her books. I could feel the coldness of the tiles under your feet and the warmth of the sun as you left the house. Oh Mexcio……..

  12. Rachel Andrews August 7, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    love love love this post and the fabulous photos, thanks for taking the time to share the unusual and unique view points

  13. Françoise December 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    I keep coming back to your images. They capture so well the spirit of the studio. I visited the blue house years ago, with fascination and emotion. I have tried to keep the magic of the place with me since. Even have found an almost identical library for my books and documents!
    Thank you! Keep nourishing us!

  14. Heather Watts January 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm #

    These photos are so wonderful–particularly the collaged spines on the file boxes. I would love to visit her studio, but your virtual tour is definitely the next best thing! Do you mind if I post some of your photos to Pinterest?

  15. Britta January 23, 2014 at 4:09 am #

    I love this post. It has made my day :) Very Inspiring.

  16. Andria January 23, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    I am coming here from your link in the 30 Day Journaling post. Thank you so much for this detailed tour…I’ve not seen photos of her studio before, and find it just amazing. Thank your for the close-ups of her file cases. I love the imagery of loteria cards, and how she used it as part of her labeling system. And to see her handwriting, and her paints, and her wheelchair…it is all very moving and inspiring.

  17. Gena February 8, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    Thank you for the magic of being escorted into the past of such an intriguing soul, Lisa; I share your marvel of the little things ~ the lottery symbols, and the barefoot walk to capture even more of that energy! Thank you for capturing these delights for us!

  18. Judith Fine-Sarchielli February 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    This is one of the most inspired blogs I have read and seen. I am so excited to continue with my creative journaling and vision board teaching. Kahlo was a genius who lives on in the hearts and souls of all creatives who know her and are inspired by her life and art.

    When i am down and out because I haven’t been expressing myself enough, I turn to her and Anais Nin to come back to my roots. I cannot live without their nourishing emotional waters, and let their feelings pour over me to refresh my soul.

    Lisa, I am so grateful for this opportunity to share with you and your readers.I would love to serve you in anyway you see fit with your next book as a developmental editor

  19. Judith Fine-Sarchielli February 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Could’ find the book mentioned here, Carr, O’Keefe, Kahlo:Places of their own on Amazon. Do you think it was only published in Mexico?
    Thanks!

    I can’t stop looking at your Kahlo blog here! It inspires me more than her self-portraits as i feel the joy and passion more than the tragedy of her art and life.

  20. Grey Gibson April 12, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Wonderful and insightful post Lisa. Thank you. I love her decoration of her files and the thought of that – decoration – and women’s wish sometimes to do decorative work which is generally looked down on by the – it has to be said – male-centred “serious art” world. Many of my female colleagues at art school would have liked to have done some decorative, sparkly stuff sometimes but knew it wouldn’t have gone down well.. Anyhow wonderful photographs and yes so admire the poster she had of intra-uterine life. Meeting her grief head on as you say…. But then that’s how she always seem to deal with things especially in her art…

  21. Debra Marrs April 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    If you’re following your surge in comments today, Lisa, you’ll find I’ve been reading and dropping notes here and there. THIS post was my fave for the same reasons you were doubly inspired when you got your photographer pass. LOVE, love the actual images of Frida’s studio.

    And *yes* I landed here from your post “Where women *don’t* create – hell, yeah! My studio/desk space is a mess most all the time until I do a big swoop of organization in order to sort out what’s next. I believe creative minds “think” alike. We love our messes but want the clean lines for breathing space and the blank canvas that opens us to possibilities.

  22. Anna Björk June 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    I have adored Frida Kahlo for many years and when I went to my brothers wedding in Mexico in 2009, The Blue House was on top of my list. I – just as you describe – loved the whole house and garden, but just absolutely lost it in the studio, I just couldn’t get myself to go. And – scrolling down your photographs, reading that you were keeping the best for last, I knew at once you were talking about the wooden file boxes – and I burst with excitement. I’m so happy that I found these pictures – thank you!

    Best wishes from Iceland,
    Anna

  23. misha g October 28, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    lisa –
    your shots of frida’s studio are alive –
    her windows –
    the light –
    such an organic look/feel to it all –
    you can sense a presence just thru your photos – very well done –
    it is good you went barefoot –
    ——————–
    am building out a studio and was looking for some ideas and came across your site –
    thx again for sharing your studio pics – they are inspiring -
    misha

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Where women *don’t* create | Lisa Sonora Beam - February 27, 2014

    […] I’ll take you over to one of my favorite places in one of my favorite cities in the world: Frida Kahlo’s studio in Mexico City with lots of photos of things that other visitors say they didn’t […]

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