Fanny Rabel was born Fanny Rabinovich on August 27, 1922 in Poland to a Polish-Jewish couple from a family of traveling actors. When she was a child, she could not have dolls, according to her daughter Paloma, so she drew the ones she saw in store windows. Her family was cultured with her sister Malka becoming a theatre critic.
The family moved to Paris in 1929, where she first attended school. They then moved to Mexico in 1938. She entered the Escuela Nocturna para Trabajadores, where she took classes in drawing and engraving.
Her anti Nazi and anti Fascism politics resulted in her participation in a mural called Retrato de la Burguesía in1940 for the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas building on Alfonso Caso Street in Mexico City. Rabel met a group of exiled Spaniards in Mexico along with Antonio Pujol, who invited her to take part in a mural project headed by him, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Joseph Renau, Luis Arenal, Antonio Rodríguez Luna and Miguel Prieto. This work depicted, among other things, children killed by Nazi bombing in Spain.
She entered the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda" shortly after it was established in 1942, taking classes with José Chávez Morado, Feliciano Peña and Frida Kahlo, with whom she became close friends. (universal) . She also became one of Frida Kahlo’s students at the Casa Azul, a group of four called “Los Fridos” (a play on Frida’s name). She was the only female in this group, along with men: Guillermo Monroy, Arturo García Bustos and Arturo Estrada. Other teachers including Francisco Zúñiga, Alfredo Zalce, Raúl Anguiano, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Carlos Orozco Romero and Diego Rivera.
Her original last name was Rabinovich but she changed it during her career.
She married urologist Jaime Woolrich and had two children Abel and Paloma Woolrich, both of which became actors.
She lived for decades at an apartment/student on Martinez de Castro Street in the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood in Mexico City. Near the end of her life she lost most of her memory, with Alzheimers suspected. She was almost evicted from apartment at this time when it was deemed unsafe, but she was still living there when she died. Rabel died on November 25, 2008 and was buried at the Panteón Israelita. She was survived by her daughter Paloma and her grandchildren.
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