Auctions | April 16, 2015

Frida Kahlo Love Letters Sell for $137,000 at Doyle NY


April 15, 2015 Auction Featured 25 Unpublished Love Letters Written by Frida Kahlo to Spanish Artist Jose Bartoli Between 1946-1949

Frida Kahlo Biographer Hayden Herrera Has Written an Essay Profiling the Letters and Their Significance.

A group of love letters written by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo sold for $137,000 at Doyle New York on April 15, 2015. The 25 letters were written by Frida Kahlo to Jose Bartoli, a Catalán émigré artist whom she met in New York. Many of the letters include keepsakes inserted by Kahlo, among them drawings, photographs, pressed flowers and other mementos. The successful bidder was a private collector in New York, who is also an artist and a great admirer of Frida Kahlo.

These unpublished letters, dating from 1946 through 1949 and comprising more than 100 pages in Spanish, were secreted away and cherished by Bartoli until his death in 1995. They remained in the possession of Bartoli’s family, who made the decision to offer the letters at auction, 20 years after his death.

Frida Kahlo met José Bartoli in New York while she was recuperating from spinal surgery stemming from a bus accident in her youth. Their love affair continued after Kahlo returned to Mexico to her beloved home, La Casa Azul, and her husband, artist Diego Rivera. The clandestine correspondence lasted for three years, aided by friends and Kahlo’s sister, Cristina, who had introduced the pair.

The letters provide new and unique insights into the life and career one of the 20th century’s most important artists. Poetically composed with a touch of Kahlo's characteristic surrealism, the letters offer illuminating information about some of her best-known paintings, including her 1946 Tree of Hope. They also poignantly refer to an unknown possible pregnancy, her post-surgery relationship with her husband, personal and professional struggles, and her unwavering love for Bartoli.

In a letter from October 1946, Kahlo states, “My Bartoli…I don’t know how to write love letters. But I wanted to tell you that my whole being opened for you. Since I fell in love with you everything is transformed and is full of beauty…love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain. You know, my sky, you rain on me and I, like the earth, receive you.”

Acclaimed Frida Kahlo biographer Hayden Herrera has recently written an essay profiling these letters. She describes them as “…steamy with unbridled sensuality and they are, like Kahlo’s paintings, extraordinarily direct and personal. They cry out with a heart-breaking loneliness and with the misery of physical pain…”

The letters offer very personal revelations about Kahlo’s relationship with Rivera. Herrera states, “Although Kahlo was deeply attached to Rivera, these letters suggest that she would have left him in order to live with Bartoli. She told Bartoli that he gave her a kind of love that she had never experienced before. Her love for Bartoli was passionate, carnal, tender and maternal.”

About José Bartoli, whom Herrera interviewed for her biography on Kahlo, she states, “Bartoli never lost his love for Frida. If you asked him about her, he would speak with great reverence, but also with restraint. All his life he treasured the little objects she gave him as tokens of her love and he kept all her letters.”

Herrera continues, “Kahlo sometimes worries that Bartoli would find her letters to be childish, corny, and stupid. But, she tells him, love letters are never intelligent or stupid. Her letters are her ‘truth.’ She asks him to receive them ‘as if a little girl passing in the street gave you a flower without knowing why.’”

The price includes the buyer’s premium.