Dolores Olmedo, Avenue Magazine 1990
Dolores Olmedo (María de los Dolores Olmedo y Patiño Suarez, 1908 –2002) was a Mexican businesswoman, philanthropist and musician, known for her friendship with painters Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera. She appeared on some of Rivera’s paintings. After Frida Kahlo’s death in 1954 she took care of her inheritance, including most of her paintings and ‘La Casa Azul’, the Blue House in Coyoacán, once Kahlo’s and Rivera’s home, now a museum, in a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City.
We were in one of the largest cities in the world, doing a story on Frida Kahlo for Avenue, and thought it would be a good idea to shoot some pictures in the house where Kahlo lived most of her life. The house where she was born, grew up and lived together with Rivera after their marriage. Hopefully some of her presence was still ‘in the air’. We dressed Gerry-An, our model, in a way Frida could have looked, accentuated her eyebrows, and went over to Mrs. Olmedo’s mansion ‘La Noria’ in Xochimilco, just south of Mexico City.
There she was: 81 years old, sophisticatedly dressed in black, meticulously made-up, eye lashes and all, wearing her famous red coral necklace that must have weighed pounds, and surrounded by some of her dangerous looking Xoloitzcuintles, Mexican hairless dogs.
She was kind of shocked when she saw Gerry-An, stared at her with eyes wide open. The resemblance to Frida, her long deceased friend, was astonishing she said, and while we talked and explained what we wanted to do, Mrs. Olmedo couldn’t keep her eyes of her. It still took some time and a small donation however, to persuade her to allow us to photograph inside Frida’s house. It is not elegant to give in too quickly – a day earlier she had refused Paloma Picasso with a similar request – but in the end she couldn’t refuse our demand, amazed as she was by Gerry-An’s appearance.
So we had a drink to celebrate and I was allowed to photograph wherever I wanted and whatever I liked in La Casa Azul; including Frida’s bedroom and all of her paintings. Muchas gracias señora Olmedo!