Biographic: Kahlo

Biographic: Kahlo
Sophie Collins
Ammonite Press

I’ve long been a fan of Frida Kahlo – her art and her spirit – so was thrilled to receive this new addition to the Biographic series for review.
It takes us first, through her life. Born in 1907 and growing up in Mexico, Frida caught polio when she was six, leaving her with a limp in her right leg; then at eighteen she was in a terrible bus accident that left her with many broken bones and in constant pain for the rest of her sadly short life.

During her recovery period, so the first part of her timeline informs us, Frida started to paint.

Three years after the accident she met Mexican artist Diego Rivera and in 1929, (a year after Frida joined the Communist party), they married for the first time.

Several operations, three failed pregnancies and a couple of affairs later, in 1935, Frida and Rivera separated: “A marriage between an elephant and a dove” is a what Frida’s mother is reputed to have said about the couple and she was certainly dwarfed by him bodily though certainly not in spirit or artistic talent.

Her first exhibition was held in 1938 and much of her work was intensely personal reflecting what was happening to her and how she felt at the time. She painted in oils, often using pastels and coloured inks for sketching. One of her most famous works, is the heavily symbolic ‘Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’.

Another is  ‘The Wounded Deer’:

Frida’s clothes were always distinctive as this self-portrait shows:

This, and others in the series that includes Biographic: Hendrix, and Biographic: Sherlock, all of which include maps,flowcharts and bubble-diagrams, are examples of infographics at their best.

See the V&A exhibition (a collection of personal possessions – clothing and artefacts) and buy this book. They can work in tandem.

Meet the Ancient Romans

Meet the … Ancient Romans
James Davies
Big Picture Press

This is one of a new history series. It’s an engaging look at the Ancient Romans, presented with an exuberance that young readers will find both highly entertaining and illuminating.

Small chunks of information are delivered with a gentle wit, on almost thirty topics. These range from The Birth of the Roman Empire (a comic strip rendering of the Romulus and Remus myth), through emperors …

writing and number systems, home life, clothing, inventions, food and farming, bathing, theatre, building (the Romans were superb builders and engineers) …

medicine (herbs and healing baths were prescribed for most illnesses);

entertainment, (the Romans pitted animals against animals as well as humans; and entry to the Colosseum was free, sometimes even the food came gratis), and ending with the fall of the empire, and a spread on Rome Today.

Throughout, the emphasis is on the visuals: Davies has an off-beat style, uses limited colour to great effect and peppers his illustrations with amusing speech bubbles.

All in all a great introduction for a younger audience, to a fascinating ancient civilisation, the legacy of which is still evident today.

Check out the companion volume ‘Meet the Ancient Egyptians’ too.