Mention the name Frida Kahlo and it’s likely a painted image of a beautiful woman with dark features comes to mind. That’s because the artist loved to create self-portraits and they remain some of her most well-known pieces today. However, there is more to the Mexico native who became a worldwide sensation. Read on to learn about Frida’s life and work.
Image Sourced from Frida Kahlo Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/fridakahlo).
Frida’s Early Years
Frida was born in 1907 in Mexico City, Mexico, and grew up in her family’s home, which she referred to as the Blue House. As a child she suffered from polio and walked with a limp for the rest of her life due to its lasting effects. As a teenager she attended the National Preparatory School. It was here that she met Diego Rivera, whom she would later marry (once in 1929 and again in 1940). At the time, he was a muralist working on a painting at the school.
It was during this same period that she was involved in a bus crash that fractured her spine and pelvis—an injury that would remain with her both physically and emotionally for the rest of her life. During her immediate recovery period, she began to paint to pass the time and discovered her talent.
As noted many of her works are self-portraits. Her life continued to be plagued with illness and suffering, which she often depicted in her artwork. For example, “The Broken Column” shows Frida with a brace and nails throughout her body, illustrating the physical pain she suffered. Similarly, “The Two Fridas” was completed in 1939 and is said to show her feelings of loneliness and isolation during her separation from Rivera. Her commissions as well as her personal pieces often had an air of darkness or mystery to them. Interestingly, the most she was ever paid for a painting in her lifetime was the equivalent of $1,000, which was for “The Two Fridas” when it was purchased by The National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City.
Frida has also been viewed as a champion of women’s rights. This has been attributed to her willingness to be open in the expression of her feelings through her art. She was also politically active. She and Rivera helped Leon Trotsky, a former Soviet communist leader, and his wife seek asylum in Mexico City.
Image Sourced from Frida Kahlo Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/fridakahlo)
Her Final Days
Frida died in the home where she grew up, the beloved Blue House, on July 13, 1954 at the age of 47. Pulmonary embolism was the official cause of death, but reports have also been mentioned concerning the possibility of suicide. She continued to be active in political causes and to paint until the end of her life. She completed her last painting “Viva la Vida,” which is a still life of ripe watermelons (which happen to be symbolic of the Mexican Day of the Dead), just days before she passed away.