You Know Frida Kahlo’s Face. Now You Can (Probably) Hear Her Voice ~ NYT

The National Sound Library of Mexico has released a track that it believes is the only known surviving audio recording of the artist.

The face of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is well known, thanks to paintings like “Self Portrait With Monkeys” (1943). But what does her voice sound like? Credit Lauren Fleishman for The New York Times


Frida Kahlo is one of the 20th century’s most celebrated artists. Her paintings, particularly her many self-portraits, are instantly recognizable, and her image has been emblazoned on products as diverse as coasters, cosmetics, T-shirts, tote bags and tequila.

She has even been made into a Barbie doll.

But one side of Kahlo has long been inaccessible: her voice.

Previously, written descriptions were the only insight into how she spoke. Gisèle Freund, a French photographer and friend of Kahlo, once wrote that the painter sounded “melodious and warm.”

But now, a recording believed to be of the artist has been released by the National Sound Library of Mexico.

In the recording, a woman’s voice describes Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s husband and fellow artist.

“He is a huge, immense child, with a friendly face and a sad gaze,” the woman says. “His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost pop out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids — like a toad’s.”

Rivera’s eyes seem made for an artist, the woman adds, “built especially for a painter of spaces and crowds.”

Admiration for Rivera is clear in the recording, which is said to be originally a text from an exhibition catalog. Rivera is said to have an “ironic, sweet smile,” “meaty lips” and “small, marvelous hands.” The voice concludes by calling Rivera’s unusual body shape, with its “childish, narrow, rounded shoulders,” as being like “an inscrutable monster.”

The recording is from a pilot edition of “The Bachelor,” a 1950s radio show in Mexico, recorded for Televisa Radio, the National Sound Library said in a statement on Wednesday. In 2007, thousands of tapes from Televisa Radio’s archive were given to the library to be digitized and stored.

Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. @alexmarshall81

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