“I did not know it then, but Frida had already become the most important fact in my life. And she would continue to be, up to the moment she died.”
He leant towards his mural, arm outstretched, brush poised ready to daub the huge, haunted blue eyes of painteress Nahui Olin when suddenly a bodiless voice came shattering into his concentration.
“ON GUARD, DIEGO, NAHUI IS COMING!”
The Mexican painter spun round, frowning at the exceedingly brazen and uncommon interruption.
A peel of girlish laughter rang around the large school auditorium, bouncing between the columns and settling back in the shadows. Diego sighed, shook his head and turned back to his mural. Would this impetuous child give over and let him work?
After weeks of interruptions the mischievous girl finally presented herself, demanding that the highly esteemed and respected Diego Rivera let her watch him work. Impressed by her audacity and self-assurance at such a young age, he agreed and she sat silently transfixed for several hours, enraptured by his every brushstroke.
The paths of this unlikely pair weren’t to cross again for three years when the now fully-grown, young woman of 18 was to interrupt another of Diego’s seminal murals, this time insisting that he give her his honest, professional opinion, did she have what it takes to become a painter?
Diego, climbing down from the rafters of the Secretariat of Education, stood before the stubborn, knotted brows of Frida Kahlo, noticing that they spread across her face like the wings of a blackbird.
She turned over her three canvases one by one and, seeing a look of appreciation appear on his face, she scolded him, “I have not come to you looking for compliments. I want the criticism of a serious man. I’m neither an art lover nor an amateur. I’m simply a girl who must work for her living.”
Suddenly aware that intellectually and creatively he had met his match, but keen to meet her demand for a direct answer, he said simply, “In my opinion, no matter how difficult it is for you, you must continue to paint.”
Despite the gap between their 18 and 42 years and to the disapproval of Frida’s family who referred to them as ‘the elephant and the dove’, soon after this momentous meeting of minds they began to date, and four years later in the summer of 1929 they were married.
The love affair between two of Mexico’s foremost painters of the 20th century was to be a tempestuous one. They both entertained a string of affairs and even divorced and remarried, but both maintained that each was the love of the other’s life.
After their meeting when Frida was just 18, Diego wrote in his diary: “I did not know it then, but Frida had already become the most important fact in my life. And she would continue to be, up to the moment she died.”