> Skip to content

Article  •  5 October 2020

 

Great Diaries: The diary of Frida Kahlo

Travel back in time and witness both everyday life and great moments in history in this fascinating compliation of diaries through the ages. 

The diary of Frida Kahlo (1907–54) is a unique fusion of words and colourful images in which Kahlo explored her thoughts, fears, beliefs, and artistic themes. She kept the diary for the 10 years leading up to her early death at the age of 47. Kahlo suffered continuous pain all her life, following a bus crash when she was at school. She had numerous operations and illnesses and expressed her suffering in startling images featuring amputated limbs, or self-portraits in which her internal organs appear outside her body. Other recurring subjects in her diary are her fascination with ancient Mexican gods, and personal relationships, notably with her husband, the charismatic Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Kahlo worked rapidly, using coloured inks, crayons, and gouache, and filled the small pages of her diary with dramatic and surprising images.

ESOTERIC SCRIBBLES

Each page of the diary is different. Here, Kahlo talks about colours and the free associations that they have for her. “I’ll try out the pencils sharpened to the point of infinity,” she begins. Magenta (solferino) recalls the “blood” of the prickly pear; yellow is linked to madness; dark green reminds her of leaves, sadness, and science; blue represents electricity and purity. “Nothing is black.” she says, “Really nothing.”

THE TWO FRIDAS

This double self portrait was painted in 1939, just after Kahlo’s divorce from Rivera. On the left she is wearing traditional Mexican dress and her exposed heart is broken. On the right she wears modern clothes and her heart is intact. In Kahlo’s diary she said the work referred to her imaginary childhood friend, but she later said it was inspired by her split with Rivera.

Many pages contain no words at all and are crammed with bizarre hybrids of humans and animals, Aztec gods, psychological symbols, and strange, unique forms. This imagery is very different from that of Kahlo’s carefully detailed paintings. Working at speed made it easier for her to explore the depths of her consciousness. Some of the text is “automatic writing” – a way of writing without thinking, which was believed to reveal the workings of the unconscious mind. It is often associated with Surrealism, but Kahlo did not regard herself as a Surrealist. Kahlo seems to have used automatic writing and a fluid style of drawing to express her pain and anxieties and come to terms with herself. She did not intend to publish the diary. It was locked away for decades after her death and even after it was discovered, only a few pages were exhibited. The diary was not published in full until 1995, when its vibrant imagery and creative self-exploration quickly made it a bestseller.


Great Diaries DK

An illustrated guide to the finest literary and historically important diaries from ancient times to the present day

Buy now
Buy now

More features

See all
Article
9 great environmental books for children

Including fun craft projects, incredible facts and stories of real children changing the world!

Article
How dogs communicate

Dogs constantly talk to us, and each other, with posture and movement and through sounds and scent – whether we notice it or not!

Article
DK Education Catalogue 2020-2021

Our books cover a huge variety of topics to stimulate a child’s mind, and that’s why teachers, parents and caregivers across the world look to us to support children’s learning.

Article
Why grow your own food?

Have you started growing your own food yet? There's many reasons to seriously consider it, here's a few from DK's latest Australian gardening book. 

Article
How to sleep better

Having some trouble getting a good night's sleep? Explore seven ways to sleep better, and ultimately live better, with Sleep: A Little Book of Self Care

Recipe
Plum pudding

So-named because it contains prunes, this is a classic Christmas dish, here using butter instead of the traditional beef suet.

Recipe
Christmas fruit mince pies

The fruit mince in this recipe is quick to prepare and needs no time to mature, making these an easy festive treat to bake.

Activity
Meet The Secret Explorers

Meet the group of brilliant kids from around the world who come together to fix problems, solve mysteries, and learn new things!    

Recipe
Sourdough starter

Learn how to make your own sourdough starter with James Strawbridge. 

Recipe
One-pan salmon with zucchini and potato wedges

So easy to whip together, this one-pan meal has dinner on the table in 30 minutes!

Activity
Boat pose exercise

Yoga is a great way to work on your mental and physical wellbeing. Challenge yourself to try the core strengething Boat Pose!

Q&A
Science of Running Q&A

Learn more about the science of running with physiotherpaist, Chris Napier, as he provides some insights on his book.

Looking for more articles?

See all articles