La Casa Azul, the Childhood Home of Frida Kahlo
Located in the southern neighbourhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City, La Casa Azul, is the home of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is where she was born, where she lived and where she later died. Today, the home is a museum and one of the most popular attractions in Mexico City.
La Casa Azul (the Blue House), so-called because of the cobalt blue walls, was built by Frida’s father Guillermo three years before she arrived into the world…although there’s some discrepancy over her actual birth date. Her official birth certificate says July 6, 1907 but Frida reportedly liked to give her birth date as July 7, 1910, the year of the start of the Mexican revolution, as its said that she wanted her life to begin together with modern Mexico.
The house is filled with memories and personal items belonging to Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera. Kitchen implements, jewellery, traditional cookware, photographs, letters and postcards are on display throughout the museum’s 10 rooms. It’s a truly fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of Mexico’s most famous artists and their bohemian, intellectual lifestyle. The majority of the ground floor rooms are filled with works by Frida Kahlo as well as those by José María Velasco, Paul Klee, Celia Calderón Orozco and Diego Rivera.
Wander through their dining room, peek into Diego’s bedroom, witness the original kitchen and then climb the stairs to Frida’s light-filled studio. Here, it’s almost as if time has stood still. Her paint brushes and colours are just waiting to be used and her wheelchair sits in front of an easel.
There are bookshelves stacked with literature as well as pre-Hispanic art. Look closely and you’ll spot more unusual items such as a gas mask. One of the museum employees said that this was worn when Diego painted. We also wondered whether it might be the one featured in the 1938 photo by Nickolas Muray titled “Frida and Diego with Gas Mask”.
About Frida Kahlo
One of Mexico’s best known artists, Frida Kahlo also had something of a tragic life. At the age of six she was stricken with polio, which caused her right leg to appear much thinner than the other. In 1925, at the age of 18, she was involved in a serious bus accident that left her with a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, a broken pelvis, broken ribs and 11 fractures in her right leg. She would later undergo some 35 operations during her lifetime. These health issues also meant that she was never able to have children, a subject that she explored in many of her paintings.
Her health problems caused her to spend a lot of time isolated from other people and this isolation played a heavy influence on her works. As she said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject that I know best.” Of the 143 paintings that she completed during her lifetime, 55 are self-portraits. Perhaps her most famous self-portrait is Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
Frida Kahlo was a central figure in the Neomexicanismo Art Movement in Mexico that emerged in the 1970s, however it was only after her death in 1954 that her works became known worldwide. During her lifetime she was more commonly known as Diego Rivera’s wife, the celebrated Mexican artist who she considered to be “the greatest artist that ever lived”. However, her popularity has since eclipsed that of her husband.
Frida Kahlo holds the auction record for a Latin American piece of art; her 1943 work Roots sold for US $5.6 million in 2006. And her work, The Frame, was the first work by a 20th century Mexican artist to be purchased by the Louvre museum in Paris. Her colourful works have been called folk art due to the traditional elements inspired by indigenous cultures of Mexico. Some have also called her paintings Surrealist although Kahlo herself said, “they thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”.
Frida Kahlo’s Wardrobe
After Frida Kahlo died in 1954 her husband shut her belongings in a room and ordered that they be locked away until 15 years after his death. As it was, the room wasn’t opened until 2004. Today, Frida’s personal belongings – from half-used nail polish bottles to headpieces – are on display at La Casa Azul. Among the items of clothing and jewellery on view are also corsets, crutches and a prosthetic leg that she was forced to use after having her leg amputated owing to gangrene. The display is called ‘Appearances Can Be Deceiving’ and shows, among other things, how Frida’s style became more flamboyant, the more her health suffered.
Visiting La Casa Azul with Kids
My kids have visited La Casa Azul three times now and they enjoy it every time. Although they find her life rather sad, to them her house is fascinating. The museum has also really thought about kids, there’s a section just for children on the museum’s website, ‘Explorando con Frida’ and the museum holds workshops for children every Saturday from 12 – 2pm. There is no need to book for these activities.
Throughout the museum there are guides for children (in Spanish, only), shaped like monkeys, an animal that can be found in many of Kahlo’s paintings. These guides describe various paintings or ask kids to find, for example, four items in the dining room. These are a great way to get children interested and involved.
The museum also has a lovely garden as well as cafe on site. Note that the museum itself is not pushchair-friendly; there are usually too many people and you can’t get a stroller up the stairs. Best to bring a baby carrier or sling if you’re visiting with an infant.
Visiting La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul is the most-visited museum in Mexico City so be organised!
- You can buy your tickets online here and thereby beat the queues.
- Holidays and weekends are particularly busy so arrive early.
- Despite the crowds, however, the museum is really well organised and the house itself never feels too busy.
- If you wish to take photos within the house, there’s an additional charge of MXN $60.
- Entrance costs: MXN $70 for Mexican nationals, MXN $120 for visitors, MXN $15 for children.
- Video guides are available to rent.
- Like all museums in Mexico City, La Casa Azul is closed on Mondays.
- Opening hours are 10am – 5.45pm. On Wednesdays the museum opens at 11am.
- The official museum website can be found here.
Frida Kahlo for Kids: 5 Fun Facts!
- Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón. The name Frieda comes from the German word Friede, which means peace. in 1935 she dropped the ‘e’ from her name and became known as Frida.
- During the early 1950s Frida was in and out of hospital and was diagnosed as having gangrene in her right foot. In 1953, still bedridden, she made a grand entrance when she arrived at her first solo show in Mexico in an ambulance!
- She was a tomboy and participated in sports such as boxing. It’s also said that she could drink many a man under the table.
- Frida is well-known for her bushy monobrow, a feature that she reportedly coloured to make look darker and groomed using special tools.
- You can spot both Frida Kahlo and Diego River on Mexico’s MXN $500 peso bill.
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