Frida Kahlo's First Solo Exhibit

In October, Frida traveled to New York for her first one-person exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery, (November 1 - 15). Frida was reluctant to go but Rivera encouraged her by saying it would be good for her art career.

That proved to be true but Rivera's real motive was to punish her for her "not so secret" affair with Trotsky in 1937. With her she carried letters of introduction from Diego to his friends and acquaintances in the "high society" of New York's art world. This time Frida had achieved the status of "artist" and was no longer referred to as just "the wife of Diego Rivera".

The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Kahlo met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics; she had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1938.

The exhibition history of this painting is as complex as its iconography. Almost exactly 71 years ago to this day, it was displayed in the first—and only—major solo exhibition of Kahlo’s work held in the United States during her lifetime. Julien Levy Gallery, one of the most respected galleries in New York City, hosted the exhibition from November 1 to 15, 1938. Closely connected to the Surrealist movement, Levy was responsible for hosting the first solo exhibitions of numerous important artists in this country, including Alberto Giacometti, Salvador Dalí, and Lee Miller.

It was through Trotsky that Kahlo was introduced to the notable French Surrealist Andre Breton, who was immediately taken with her work, seeing it as a form of "naïve Surrealism […] free from the Freudian symbols and philosophy that obsess the official Surrealist painters." Breton facilitated Kahlo's first exhibition outside of Mexico.

The exhibition took place in 1938, when Kahlo was contacted by Julien Levy, an art dealer from New York. The artist had always painted solely for herself, without giving any thought to an audience, and she did not understand how her artwork could possibly be of interest to anyone. Nevertheless, she agreed to the offer.

The exhibition was a great success. At the time, there were very few art galleries in the United States, and only a handful were dedicated to avant-garde art, so the exhibition received a great deal of attention and press coverage. Out of the 25 paintings exhibited, fully half were sold, and Kahlo received several commissions.