Cristina Kahlo (1908-1964) was the younger sister of famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, born a mere 11 months after Frida. Their parents were Guillermo Kahlo, a German-Mexican photographer, and Matilde Calderón y González, a Mexican of indigenous and Spanish descent.
They also had two older sisters – Matilde and Adriana.
She was very close to Frida throughout their lives, often accompanying her on trips and helping out with her artwork. She often posed for Frida for her paintings.
Both sisters lived most of their lives in close proximity in the Coyoacán neighborhood in Mexico City. Cristina often bought notebooks and other art supplies for Frida.
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In 1928, Frida painted a portrait of Cristina titled “Portrait of Cristina My Sister”.
Frida’s portrait of Cristina sold in 1988 for $198,000. In 2001 it was sold again, this time for $1,655,750.
During Frida’s last years, Cristina and her children lived with her and Diego to help take care of Frida.
After Frida Kahlo passed away in 1954 Cristina moved out.
Cristina Kahlo: Her Affair with Diego Rivera
Like Frida herself, Cristina’s legacy was marked by her relationship to Diego Rivera. Cristina married an abusive husband and later left him. She moved with her children into Frida and Diego’s house.
Cristina and Diego, always the philanderer, eventually, Cristina began an affair that lasted for five years.
To make things worse, the couple hardly kept the affair secret. The couple was often seen together in public and their relationship was an open secret amongst their family and friends.
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Not surprisingly, the affair between the two people Frida loved and trusted most hurt her terribly. The pain can be seen in the portraits of herself she painted during this time, where she was wounded and bleeding. She also cut her hair short.
Kahlo produced one of her most famous work A Few Small Nips as a response to the affair. The picture depicts Kahlo’s naked and bloodied body on a table, a physical demonstration of her heartbreak.
Surprisingly, and despite their closeness, it is believed that neither Frida nor Kahlo ever spoke about the relationship during their lifetimes.
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Cristina Kahlo: Her Portrait by Diego Rivera
In 1934, Diego Rivera in 1934 painted a portrait of Cristina Kahlo.
Rivera also immortalized Cristina in a wall-painting he painted for Mexico’s Ministry of Health, in which he painted her nude. The mural is called Figure of Knowledge.
Cristina Kahlo: Her Death
Cristina Kahlo died in 1964.
The cause of death was never officially determined, but it is believed that she suffered a stroke or heart attack.
To Learn More:
- Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo, A novel by Barbara Mujica about Frida’s life told from the perspective of Cristina
- Diary Of A Mad Artist, Vanity Fair
- Bailey, Gauvin Alexander. Frida the Mexican: Kahlo in her homeland: Mexico is embracing Frida Kahlo as an icon of national identity, as well as a feminist and communist. Gauvin Alexander Bailey reviews a huge monographic exhibition in Mexico City, of which parts will be shown through the USA. Apollo, vol. 166, no. 547, Oct. 2007, pp. 108+. Gale Academic OneFile
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