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Frida Kahlo's Jewish Roots

Frequently shocking, always personal, the paintings of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo play out on canvas her feelings about her tumultuous relationship with husband Diego Rivera, her physical deterioration after a serious bus accident, her sorrow at being unable to bear children. My Grandparents, My Parents and I (below), which Kahlo painted in 1936, provides insight into yet another aspect of her complex identity: her relationship with her family, most notably her father. Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo was a German Jewish immigrant to Mexico; Kahlo's mother was a Mexican Catholic.

The painting is at the center of Frida Kahlo's Intimate Family Picture, an exhibit on view until January 4, 2004, at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan. The exhibit also features materials that influenced the painting's imagery, as well as vintage photographs of Kahlo, taken by her father. Though Kahlo was far removed from practicing Judaism, says guest curator Gannit Ankori of Hebrew University, she "was interested in her Jewish roots and viewed them as part of her 'genealogical identity.'" The exhibit explores how this identity influenced her work and contributed to the political and social agendas the artist was committed to throughout her life.

For information, call The Jewish Museum at 212-423-3200. For the online version of the exhibit, visit the museum's newly redesigned website: www.thejewishmuseum.org/home.

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