Many Americans have heard of La Casa Azul (The Blue House), artist Frida Kahlo’s Mexico City home. Another house occupied by Kahlo is more interesting.
In 1929, 22-year-old Kahlo became the fourth wife of 42-year-old Mexican artist Diego Rivera. In 1930, the couple moved to the United States. While there, they commissioned Juan O’Gorman, an architect friend of Rivera, to design and build a house in Colonia San Angel, an upper-class neighborhood in Mexico City. When the house was completed in 1932, the neighbors were aghast. In the first place, already recognizing their tumultuous personal relationship, the marital house comprised two separate buildings, connected only by a footbridge between their roofs. Rivera lived in the red building and Kahlo lived in the blue building. More important, the houses reflected the austere functionalist style first seen in Europe that would eventually become popular around the world.
When Kahlo and Rivera divorced in 1939, she moved into La Casa Azul, her family home. When they remarried a year later, Rivera joined her in La Casa Azul but continued working in the red building, eventually creating about 3,000 works of art there. When Kahlo died in 1954, Rivera lived in the red building until he died in 1957. In 1986, the homes and studios of Kahlo and Garcia were opened to the public as the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo House Studio Museum. The red building in which Rivera lived and worked includes a large collection of his “Judas,” papier-mâché figures traditionally burned at Easter. The blue building contains Frida’s original bathroom, including the bathtub featured in her famous 1938 painting, “What the Water Gave Me.” The next time you are in Mexico City and have visited La Casa Azul, take a couple of hours to see the unique buildings where Kahlo and Rivera lived and worked.