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Rare and loving photos of Frida Kahlo capture the artist and feminist icon in the last years of her life

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Beautiful, talented and strong, Frida Kahlo has long captivated the public's imagination.

An enigmatic and fascinating figure, she led an extraordinary life as a feminist icon and one of the foremost artists of the Twentieth Century.

And while she's best known for her self-portraits, a new book turns the camera around to capture the Mexican painter in a series of rare and candid images, many of which have never been seen before.

In 1950, legendary photographer Gisèle Freund embarked on a two-week trip to Mexico - but she wouldn’t leave until two years later.

Instead, she met Kahlo and her fellow artist lover Diego Rivera, and was welcomed into their home, La Casa Azul (The Blue House).

She immersed herself in their private lives, taking hundreds of photos that somehow manage to capture the passion, independence and beauty of Kahlo, and the Bohemian sensitivity that both her and Rivero, as communists, subscribed to. 

Frida

Above: Frida at work (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Kahlo turned to painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Her fearless representations of the female form and her own suffering, coupled with her personal strength and independence in the early 20th century, are widely celebrated by the feminist art movement.

Brilliant and volatile, She and Rivera had a notoriously stormy relationship - they divorced and re-married in the same year - with a fiery creative dynamic at its heart. 

"I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down... The other accident is Diego," Kahlo once declared, upon discovering her husband had had an affair with her sister in 1935. 

Theirs was a creatively stimulating but fiery union punctuated by infidelity on both parts. Kahlo was friends with the painters Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso, and had an affair with the exiled Russian leader Leon Trotsky (he and his wife lived with the couple for a while in Mexico, where Trotsky was later assassinated). 

Frida Kahlo

Above: The artist with puppies in her courtyard (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Freund's powerful and vivid photographs are among the last taken of Kahlo before her death in 1954, aged 47. The artist was very ill in the last years of her life; she developed severe gangrene in her right foot and also suffered depression.

But she continued to support political causes and launched her first solo exhibition in Mexico a year before she died.

Freund (1908-2000) was one of the first female members of Magnum Photos, and photographed a series of renowned writers and artists over the course of her illustrious career, including Vladimir Nabokov, Virgina Woold and James Joyce.

Her photos of Kahlo are appearing for the first time this month in Frida Kahlo: The Gisèle Freund Photographs. Come take a look at some of our favourite images from the book, below. 

Frida

Above: A moment of reflection (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Frida Kahlo

Above: Feeding the ducks (© IMEC / Fonds MCC / Dist. Rmn / Photo Gisèle Freund)

Frida

Above: Frida in her home (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Frida

Above: A rare and detailed portrait (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Frida Kahlo

Above: Frida in her bed (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Frida

Above: Frida outside La Casa Azul, the home she shared with Diego Rivera (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

Frida Kahlo

Above: Frida at work (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

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Above: Photographer Gisèle Freund with Diego Rivera (©Gisèle Freund / IMEC / Fonds MCC)

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Frida Kahlo: The Gisèle Freund Photographs by Gisèle Freund, text by Gerard de Cortanze (Abrams, £15.99) is out now

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