Saturday, 2 November 2013

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at L'Orangerie

No cafe at the Orangerie! Why have I not noticed this before? It is a serious problem when you have been queuing for a couple of hours in the rain on a grey Paris day to get into this must see exhibit and all you want is to cup your hands around a mug of something hot. Eventually we thawed out, but it wasn't until we were half way round that we took off our coats. So be warned, dress warmly, bring your own refreshments.

Physical (dis)comfort aside, it's a cracker. The exhibition is all about creative partnership and the chiming of work: Rivera's monumental murals (reproductions of parts of, together with film footage and sketches) and portraits with Kahlo's paintings (portraits and self-portraits). Inevitably some well known works and particular favourites were not there. But it wasn't trying to collect everything into two retrospectives, there wouldn't have been space. What is there is very representative of both artists and turned up some surprises for me, who thought she knew their work.

Rivera's early Cubist and Post-Impressionist work from his time in Europe was a surprise, especially the Zapatista Landscape, a striking and brightly coloured Cubist piece of gun, blanket and landscape with volcanoes, and the Fountain at Toledo with its stunning red horse.

Kahlo's very auto-biographical works are well placed in a central room, appropriately womb-like. I find it very difficult to look at the paintings of her in hospital after her miscarriages and accident, especially The Broken Column with its nails and shroud, and her Self-portrait with a Monkey. They are so moving. I wept. Her beautiful velvet portraits of herself and Alicia Galant are perfect in their classicism. I wanted to take them both home.

There is a wide selection of drawings, photographs and film footage and a crash course in twentieth century Mexican history. It's well worth the wait, the cold and the crowd. Ten euros and you get the Monets and the rest of the permanent collection thrown in. A great way to shelter from the weather. It's on until the end of January.

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