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Snowbirds, ca. 1938

4 January 2011

From the Guardian (reprinted from the Manchester Guardian 3 January 1938):

… Nearly a year of retirement at the beautiful villa of the famous painter, Diego Rivera at Coyoacan, a residential suburb of Mexico City, seems to have agreed with Trotsky. He looks younger than his years. He has, however, lost a great deal of the fire of the former War Commissar, and, with his pince-nez and pointed grey beard, resembles a typical French professor.

… The villa is single-storeyed, built round three sides of a flower-filled court. There are some good stone idols, collected by Rivera. The room is bare, except for a brilliant portrait of Rivera’s wife in Mexican costume, a few coloured glass balls such as are used on Christmas trees, and some bookshelves filled with much-read works, chiefly on economics and politics. Prominent is a set of “Lenin” in Russian and the volumes of the Moscow trials report, interleaved with scraps of paper.

Rivera, huge and bulky, acts as host, and his extraordinarily handsome wife moves about in a dress similar to that in the picture.

Trotsky apparently relishes his present exile. Without being luxurious, it is cultivated, comfortable and pleasing to the eye. On certain days, when the sky is that deep, clear blue, the walls of the villa seem to enclose the world, which is in fact shut out by the high door and the five guards with bayonets. Yet those who have seen the usual homes of political exiles in a world where the right of asylum is, as Trotsky himself says, growing more and more restricted cannot help thinking that there could be many worse things than going into permanent retirement at Coyoacan, the ancient Aztec ‘Place of the Wolf’.

(Via Iconic Photos)
About Rivera’s unnamed “extraordinarily handsome wife”.  Frida Kahlo was an unknown at the time, but her work briefly captured the attention of André Breton, who just happened to be in town in 1938 when the photo above was taken by the otherwise unknown Fritz Bach:

… This is the famous trip where Kahlo was ‘discovered’ by Breton. At Breton’s invitation, Kahlo went to France the next year and was featured at an exhibition of her paintings in Paris…  However, Breton didn’t care much about Kahlo–he didn’t even bother to pick [up] Frida who didn’t speak French at the French customs, but his wife Jacqueline Lamba did.

Kahlo is said to have had affairs with both Lamba and Trotsky.  As to the affair between the 60 year old exile and the 31 year old surrealist, perhaps it’s best for foreigners not to get too involved with their neighbor’s wives (and their friends) … it might lead to a serious headache:

… After Trotsky’s assassination in 1940 by a Stalinist agent, Kahlo was questioned by police for suspected involvement in the murder. She knew the assassin, Ramon Mercader in Paris and invited him into Trotsky’s refuge in Coyoacán.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 5 January 2011 12:37 am

    Hi Richard… I’s funny, I also wrote about “retirement” today but your time period was more interesting… the late 1930s were an amazing time in Mexico

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