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Frida’s Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona presented by Think Olio

Frida’s Fragrance: Art, Scent, & Persona presented by Think Olio

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century, is celebrated for her groundbreaking self-portraits, her proud embodiment of her Mexican heritage, her political activism, and her persistence in the face of physical disability. She has been the subject of many books, exhibitions, documentaries, even a Hollywood film. Our knowledge of Kahlo as an artist and a woman is extensive. However, new sources of information were revealed in 2004, when the Museo Frida Kahlo opened two rooms of Kahlo’s home that had been sealed since her death. The contents of those rooms included previously unknown works of art, hundreds of photographs, personal papers, and personal possessions such as garments, jewelry, and cosmetics—material that recently has been featured in new publications and exhibitions.

The “rediscovery” of these intimate belongings—particularly her clothing—has expanded our understanding of Kahlo’s deliberate, meaningful self-presentation in her art and life. And if we can analyze Kahlo’s multi-layered identity through her choice of regional Mexican dress, for example, what can we say about her collection of perfumes? Similar to fashion, scent can be a form of self-expression, a means of shaping and sharing a persona.

In this “show and smell” Olio, we will sample five perfumes owned by Kahlo while viewing examples of her art. Hearing the back-story and cultural context of each perfume, we will draw analogies between the scent and Kahlo’s image. Can an olfactory exploration of Kahlo’s favorite fragrances further enhance our appreciation of this iconic artist?


Teacher: Jessica Murphy
Jessica Murphy is an art historian and museum professional who also teaches classes on fragrance culture at venues around New York. You can follow her at her blog Perfume Professor and on Instagram @tinselcreation

Art historian Jessica Murphy takes us into a world of Frida not often discussed – her choice of perfume. What can her selected scents reveal about the artist and her deliberate self-presentation?


Think Olio is not about learning a new skill or adding credentials to your resume. It is about getting together with other people and expanding our worldview. It exists as a conduit for fruitful discussions, a dissent from the regurgitation of facts, and an embrace of new perspectives.

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.