Diego and Frida: A Smile at Halfway

Learn more about this famous couple's ups and downs through the collection of the Diego Rivera House-Studio Museum.

By Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Frida painting "Naturaleza viva" (Living Nature) in bed, with Diego at her side (1952) by Juan GuzmánMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

A Couple Like No Other

By following their work chronologically, we come to understand theit fascinating journey, as well as their similarities and contrasts as a couple. Today, they are more in vogue than ever before; icons of the Mexican identity and unconditional love.

The Rivera Barrientos twins (ca. 1887) by Vicente ContrerasMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Parallel Lives

Diego Rivera and his twin brother, Carlos, were born on December 8, 1886, although Carlos sadly died 18 months later. The tragedy would haunt the painter throughout his life; he depicted his brother in several of his murals, including "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park."

Diego Rivera aged 4 at his house in Guanajuato, Vicente Contreras, 1890, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera at the Academy of San Carlos (1902) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

He began studying at the Academy of San Carlos at a young age, and in 1905 he won a scholarship, allowing him to continue his training in Paris.

Frida Kahlo aged 4 (1911) by Guillermo KahloMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

In 1907, Rivera was studying art in Spain; on July 6 of that year, Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City, in the Blue House in Coyoacán.

Diego Rivera reading in his studio in Rue du Départ, Paris (1915) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

In September 1910, Rivera decided to return to Mexico to display his work from his time in Europe, though soon after he returned to the Old Continent.

Frida Kahlo as a student (1926) by Guillermo KahloMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

This is the year that Frida Kahlo decided would be the year of her "birth," having fully identified with the revolutionary ideals, and considering herself to be the daughter of the Mexican Revolution.

Diego Rivera as an art student in Madrid (ca. 1908) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Diego returned to Mexico in 1921 and began work on a mural entitled "The Creation" in the Bolívar amphitheater within the National High School. Frida Kahlo joined this institution in 1922, and it was there that they met.

Frida and Diego on their wedding day, at the Reyes Studio in Coyoacán (agosto 21 de 1929) by Ernesto ReyesMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

"Yo te cielo" (I sky you)

Six years later, Frida showed Diego her work, who offered the effusive encouragement: "Carry on, young lady. You have talent."  Their romance blossomed, and in 1929 the couple married. It was Kahlo's first marriage, but Rivera's third.

Diego Rivera with Frida Kahlo while she paints one of her portraits of him, Bernard G. Silverstein, 1943, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera with Frida Kahlo, leading the delegation of the Syndicate of Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers (1ro de mayo de 1929) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

As well as having a mutual love for art, both were activists of the Mexican left.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo at a Red Aid demonstration in Mexico City, autor no identificado, 20 de noviembre de 1931, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida and Diego at the head of a march of the Syndicate of Revolutionary Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. The union was founded by Rivera, Xavier Guerrero, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco (detail)., Enrique Díaz, 1o. de mayo de 1929, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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US visa granted to Diego Rivera for his trip to San Francisco for the inauguration of the Golden Gate International Exposition (29 de mayo de 1940) by Hermanos MayoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

The couple moved to the United States, having been invited to create murals in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York. In 1933, they painted a mural for the Rockefeller Center which included the image of Lenin. For that reason it was destroyed, and so they made the decision to return to Mexico.

Diego and Frida arriving in San Francisco, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, ca. 1930, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida and Diego at the Ford Motor Company's Rouge Factory in Detroit, Autor no identificado, 1932, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego and Frida on their return to Mexico, where they remained until November of the same year, Ansel Adams, julio de 1931, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida and Diego on the terrace at the house-studio in San Ángel (ca. 1940) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

On their return, they settled in the house-studio that the architect Juan O'Gorman had built for them in San Ángel. Diego's numerous affairs led the couple to divorce in 1935.

Diego and Frida walking in front of the cactus fence at their house-studio in San Ángel, Autor no identificado, 1934, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Facade of Diego Rivera's House-Studio, Guillermo Kahlo, 31 de julio de 1932, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in San Ángel (1940) by Nickolas MurayMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Following the split, Frida moved to a modern apartment in Insurgentes. However, it was not long until she returned to her beloved Diego. Nonetheless, the couple continued living apart: Rivera in San Ángel and Kahlo in Coyoacán.

Frida's father, Guillermo Kahlo, was a photographer. When the couple returned temporarily to Mexico, he photographed them at the Blue House with a "Judas" effigy made by Carmen Caballero, a papier-mâché artist and Rivera's "personal Judas maker.", Guillermo Kahlo, 1931, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera carrying their pet monkey "Fulang-Chang", Autor no identificado, ca. 1940, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida and Diego Rivera at the house of the sculptor Ralph Stockpole. In the background is one of Stockpole's works., Peter Juley, 1931, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in his studio in San Ángel (1940) by Nickolas MurayMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

During their time in the United States, portraits of this captivating couple were taken by artists such as Edward Weston and Nickolas Muray, with whom Frida had a passionate fling.

Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky, and André Breton (1938) by Manuel Álvarez BravoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

In 1937, they invited Leon Trotsky to stay with them in the Blue House in Coyoacán. Frida and Trotsky embarked upon a secret love affair, which hurt Rivera deeply, given his admiration for the communist leader. In 1938, Rivera and Kahlo struck up a close friendship with André Bretón, author of the Surrealist Manifesto, and his wife, the painter Jacqueline Lamba. The couple moved into the house-studio that Frida had originally occupied in San Ángel.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the studio in San Ángel (1940) by Emmy Lou PackardMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

In 1940, Frida and Diego decided to remarry in San Francisco. On their return to Mexico, they lived in the Blue House in Coyoacán, while Diego commuted daily to the house-studio to continue his work.

Diego Rivera with Frida Kahlo at the Hospital Inglés (ABC Medical Center) (1950) by Juan GuzmánMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

From 1944 to 1954, Frida's health worsened and this took its toll on their already fragile relationship. In spite of her illness, she installed her only ever solo exhibition held during her lifetime, in the Contemporary Art Gallery.

Frida Kahlo standing in front of her work "Lo que agua me ha dado" (What the Water Gave Me), Autor no identificado, 1938, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Frida Kahlo, Juan O’Gorman, and Diego Rivera in the last photograph taken of Frida before her death, at a demonstration against US intervention in Guatemala (2 de julio de 1954) by autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

On July 2, a convalescent Frida marched with Diego at the demonstration to protest against US intervention in Guatemala.

Frida Kahlo in Diego Rivera's studio in San Ángel by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Diego Rivera next to Frida's coffin at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). With him are Andrés Iduarte, who read the funeral prayer, Lázaro Cárdenas, Emma Hurtado, and Víctor Manuel Villaseñor. In the foreground is his daughter Lupe Rivera Marín. (14 de julio de 1954) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Eleven days later, on July 13, 1954, she died. Throughout her life she underwent more than 20 surgical interventions, the last being the amputation of her left leg.

Frida Kahlo's funeral. A student draped a communist flag over her coffin, causing a social scandal., Autor no identificado, 14 de julio de 1954, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera's wake, held at his studio in San Ángel (noviembre de 1957) by Autor no identificadoMuseo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo

Three years later, after battling cancer, Diego Rivera died in 1957.

Diego Rivera's funeral at the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Men) in the Panteón Civil de Dolores cemetery, Autor no identificado, 1957, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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Diego Rivera in his San Ángel studio, Autor no identificado, From the collection of: Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo
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