Frida Kahlo: The Legacy of Mexico’s Greatest Artist

Frida Kahlo

The feminist icon, Frida Kahlo is popular among the world as one of Mexico’s greatest artists.

Frida Kahlo is best known for her uncompromising and brilliantly colored self-portraits.

Her portraits usually in-comprised the human body, identity and death, that deeply connected with the audience.


Early Life

Frida Kahlo: The Legacy of Mexico's Greatest Artist

Frida Kahlo aka Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoan, Mexico City Mexico.

She grew up in the family’s house which was later referred to as the Blue House.

Her father, Wilhelm was a German photographer who immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde.

Frida Kahlo had two older sisters, Matilde and Adriana, and a younger sister, Cristina who was born the year after her.

Since her childhood, Kahlo had a very poor health condition.

Unfortunately, at the age of six, Kahlo became bedridden for almost nine months due to polio.

Thus, the disease caused her right leg and foot to grow much thinner than the left one.

Then, Frida Kahlo started to wear long skirts to cover her legs for the rest of her life.

Despite her disease, Kahlo’s father encouraged her to play soccer, go swimming, and even wrestle.

In 1922, Frida Kahlo enrolled at the renowned National Preparatory School in Mexico City.

There were only thirty-five female students enrolled in the school and Kahlo was one of them.

Due to her outspokenness and bravery, it took no time for Frida Kahlo to become famous in her school.

Everyone in her school admired her because of her lover towards colorful, traditional clothes and jewelry.

While at school, Kahlo hung out with a group of politically and intellectually like-minded students.

Then, Frida Kahlo became more politically active and joined the Young Communist League and the Mexican Communist Party.


Frida Kahlo was romantically involved with her school friend Alejandro Gomez Arias.

On September 17, 1925, when they were traveling together on a bus, the vehicle collided with a streetcar.

Unfortunately, Kahlo became impaled to steel handrail, which went into her hip and came out the other side.

Hence, she suffered from several injuries including fractures in her spine and pelvis.

Kahlo stayed at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City for several weeks.

She began painting during her recovery and finisher her first self-portrait the following year, which she gave to Gomez Arias.


Persona Life

Frida Kahlo: The Legacy of Mexico's Greatest Artist

During her school days, Frida Kahlo met the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera for the first time.

At that time, Rivera used to work on a mural called The Creation on the school campus.

Kahlo used to watch it quite often and she even told her friends about her wish to marry Rivera.

After her accident, Kahlo reconnected with Rivera in 1928.

She asked him to evaluate her work and he encouraged her.

The two soon started the romantic relationship.


Marriage with Diego Rivera

Despite her mother’s objections, Frida and Diego married one year later.

In 1930, they lived in San Francisco, California.

The couple went to New York City for Rivera’s show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Later, they moved to Detroit for Rivera’s commission with the Detroit Institute of Arts.

In 1933, controversy surrounded Kahlo and Rivera’s time in New York City.

Rivera created a mural entitled Man at the Crossroads in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center, commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller.

Rockefeller halted the work on the project after Rivera included a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin in the mural.

Soon after the incident, the couple returned to Mexico and went to live in San Angel, Mexico.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s marriage was not a usual one.

They had kept separate, but adjoining homes and studios in San Angel.

Diego had so many affairs and one of that included affair with her sister Cristian.

In response to this family betrayal, Kahlo cut off most of her trademark long and dark hair.

She could not bear one due to the bus accident.

Kahlo became more disheartened when she experienced a second miscarriage in 1934.

The couple had been separated for a few times but they always went back together somehow.

In 1937, they helped Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia.

They welcomed the couple together and let them stay at her Blue House.

Frida Kahlo then started to have a brief affair with Leon Trotsky.


Artistic Career

Frida Kahlo: The Legacy of Mexico's Greatest Artist

In 1938, Frida Kahlo became friend with Andre Breton, who was one of the primary figures of Surrealism movement.

That same year, she had a major exhibition at a New York City Gallery, selling about half of the 25 paintings.

She also received two commissions, including one from famed magazine editor Clare Boothe Luce.

In 1939, Frida Kahlo went to live in Paris for a time.

There she exhibited some of her paintings and started to develop a friendship with artists including Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso.

In 1941, Kahlo received a commission from the Mexican government for five portraits of important Mexican women.

After a year, she lost her beloved father and continued to suffer from chronic health problems.

Despite her problems, Kahlo continued to grow in popularity and was included in numerous group shows.

In 1953, she received her first solo exhibition in Mexico.

Despite being bedridden at that time, she did not miss out on the exhibition’s opening.

She arrived by ambulance, spending the event talking and celebrating with the event’s attendees.


Frida Kahlo’s Paintings

‘Frieda and Diego Rivera’ (1931)

The work was painted two years after the marriage of Kahlo and Rivera.

In the painting, Kahlo lightly holds Rivera’s hand as he grasps a palette and paintbrushes with the other.

Frida Kahlo showed this painting at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists.


‘Henry Ford Hospital’ (1932)

In this painting, a naked Kahlo appears on a hospital bed with several items.

The items includes a fetus, a snail, a flower, a pelvis floating around her and connected to her by red, vein-like strings.

The work was deeply personal, telling the story of her second miscarriage.


‘The Suicide of Dorothy Hale’ (1939)

Kahlo was asked to paint a portrait of her friend and actress Dorothy Hale, who committed suicide.

The painting was intended as a gift for Hale’s grieving mother.

Rather than a traditional portrait, she pained the story of Hale’s tragic leap.


 ‘The Two Fridas’ (1939)

This Fried Kahlo’s painting is one most famous works of her.

The painting shows two versions of the artists sitting side by side, with both of their hearts exposed.

One is dressed nearly all in white and has a damaged heart and spots of blood on her clothing.

While the other wears bold-colored clothing and has an intact heart.


‘The Broken Column’ (1944)

In this painting, Kahlo shared her physical challenges through her art.

This painting shows a nearly nude Kahlo split down the middle, revealing her spine as a shattered decorative column.

She also wears a surgical brace and her skin is studded with the tacks or nails.


Frida Kahlo’s Death

Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954 at her beloved Blue House at the age of 47.

There had been some speculation regarding the nature of her death.

Reportedly, it was caused by a pulmonary embolism, but there have been stories about a possible suicide.

After her death, the feminist movement of the 1970s led to renewed interest in her life and work.

She was viewed by many as an icon of female creativity and bravery.


Frida Kahlo Museum

The Blue House or Casa Azul, the family home where Frida Kahlo was born and bought up was opened in 1958.

Located in Coyoacan, Mexico City, the house consists some important works.

The works includes Vida la Vida (1954), Frida and Caesarean (1931) and Portrait of my father Wilhelm Kahlo (1952).