Frida Kahlo Painting
Hale's friend Clare Booth Luce, an ardent admirer of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, almost immediately commissioned Kahlo to paint a "recuerdo" (remembrance) portrait of their deceased mutual friend, so that in Kahlo's words: "her life must not be forgotten". Luce understood a recuerdo to be an idealized memorial portrait and was doubtless expecting a conventional over-the-fireplace portrait for her $400. After being shown in March in Paris, the completed painting arrived in August 1939: Luce claims she was so shocked by the unwrapped painting that she "almost passed out." What Kahlo created was a graphic, narrative "retablo", detailing every step of Hale's suicide. It depicts Hale standing on the balcony, falling to her death while also lying on the bloody pavement below. Luce was so offended that she seriously considered destroying it; but instead she had sculptor Noguchi paint out the part of the legend that bore Luce's name. Luce simply left the work crated up in the care of Frank Crowninshield, only to be presented with it again decades later, when Crowninshield's heirs discovered it in storage. She donated it anonymously to the Phoenix Art Museum, where it was eventually outed as a Luce donation. The museum retains ownership, although the painting is frequently on tour in exhibitions of Kahlo's works.
In 2010, the painting was included in a "sweeping view" of Noguchi’s career in the “On Becoming an Artist: Isamu Noguchi and His Contemporaries, 1922-1960” show at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens, New York City.
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