• The “Romanian Hungarian Jewish” Roots Of Mexican Artist Frida Kahlo Revisited

    February 17, 2024
    1 Comment

    Presentation Of Identity As Genealogical Performance Art

    Frida Kahlo by Saed de los Santos, via Wikimedia Commons

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    Arad, Romania (earlier in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) lies about 800 miles away from Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg, Federal Republic of Germany. Both picturesque in their own right, they represent two separate cultures in Europe. Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), whose father was from Europe, is known to have insisted that her father’s family was of Hungarian (then, today Romania) Jewish origin. Allegedly they had immigrated to Pforzheim from Arad. So often has this been reiterated that it is taken without question as canon genealogical law. However, the work of genealogists Rainer Huhle and Gaby Franger, substantiated by online genealogy records, paint a much different picture.

    Frida's Family Tree

    Frida’s father, Wilhelm Kahlo (later Hispanicized to Guillermo), was a photographer who immigrated to Mexico. The aforementioned researchers investigated his origins which they included in their book Fridas Vater: Der Fotograf Guillermo Kahlo (Fridas Vater: Der Fotograf Guillermo Kahlo : Huhle, Rainer, Franger, Gaby: Amazon.co.uk: Books). They found neither a connection to the Kingdom of Hungary nor, specifically, to the city of Arad, now in Romania.

    Frida’s father, Wilhelm Kahlo

    Geneanet.org, to which this researcher subscribes, with additional information from ancestry.com, offers a generous view of the European Kahlo family tree:

    Father: Guillermo (formerly Wilhelm) Kahlo, born 1871, Grand Duchy of Baden (today Baden-Württemberg, Germany), Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal grandfather: Johann Heinrich Jakob Heinrich Kahlo, born 1819, Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal grandmother: Regina Maria Henriette Kaufmann, born 1840, Lörrach, Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal great grandfather: Friedrich Wilhelm Kahlo, born Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal great grandmother: Dorothea Riechenberg (Kahlo): born Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal great grandfather: Karl Friedrich Kaufmann, Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

    Paternal great grandmother: Henriette Köller, Pforzheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, Religion: Lutheran

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    There appears no record of origin at least as far as the generation of Frida’s great grandparents in the Kingdom of Hungary, nor any affiliation with  Judaism as a religion.

    A Romanian language article from July 8, 2023 titled A avut artista Frida Kahlo „rădăcini” arădene? O legendă urbană imposibilă a orașului (https://specialarad.ro/frida-kahlo-arad-guillermo-kahlo-lev-trotki/) (English: Did Artist Frida Kahlo Have Arad "roots"? An Impossible Urban Legend of the City) seems to reject the notion of Frida’s self proclaimed origins, finding no evidence in Arad to support it. However, the author speculates that Kahlo’s loathing of Nazism (as well as her father’s rejection of Hitler), along with her well known Communist sympathies, may have been the catalyst for artist license to reinvent herself in a more self-palatable way.



    J. Froebel-Parker

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    William Hinrichs

    Interesting! Thank you

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