Frida Kahlo is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable names in art history, and an interest in Frida Kahlo’s paintings has seen a resurgence over the past 40 years. Both her surreal artwork and dramatic life story have captured the public’s imagination, but while it may seem that we have a wealth of information about Kahlo, there’s still a lot that remains a mystery. Interestingly, this includes the sound of her voice.
While recordings of Frida Kahlo’s voice are one of the most requested items at the National Sound Library of Mexico, until now, no known audio existed. This all changed when the library announced that it discovered what may be the first recording of the Mexican artist’s voice. The discovery came while cataloging and digitizing episodes of the radio show El Bachiller.
During a 1955 episode featuring Kahlo’s husband, famed muralist Diego Rivera, a woman’s voice recites a poem titled Portrait of Diego. While Kahlo would have been deceased at that time, it’s believed that she is the woman delivering the romantic look at his appearance and temperament.
En la @Fonoteca, que se localiza en el centro de Coyoacán, damos a conocer noticias que nos emocionan, se trata de hallazgos sonoros de la colección de Álvaro Gálvez y Fuentes “El Bachiller”.
— Secretaría Cultura (@cultura_mx) June 12, 2019
“He is a huge, immense child, with a friendly face and a sad gaze,” the voice states. “His high, dark, extremely intelligent and big eyes rarely hold still. They almost pop out of their sockets because of their swollen and protuberant eyelids—like a toad’s.”
How could it be Kahlo’s voice if she’d died the year prior to the episode? The audio notes that the voice belongs to a painter “who no longer exists,” giving evidence to the theory. In fact, it’s thought that the original recording dates to 1953 or 1954. Now the library is continuing its investigation in order to be 100% positive that what we’re listening to is, indeed, Frida Kahlo’s voice.
The discovery underscores the importance of digitization projects, as they allow these pieces of history to remain alive. There are still 1,300 tapes of El Bachiller left to catalog, which leaves officials hopeful that there may be other traces of Kahlo’s voice in other episodes.