Feminist Icon Frida Kahlo Painted Herself a Legacy

Famous painter Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoan, Mexico. Though Kahlo is one of Mexico’s most known and revered painters, she actually didn’t begin her artistic career until after she was gravely injured in a bus accident.

Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon. Her father, Guillermo “Wilhelm” Kahlo, was a German photographer who immigrated to Mexico, where he met and eventually married Kahlo’s mother Matilde. Kahlo also grew up with three sisters: Matilde, Adriana, and Cristina.

At the age of six, Kahlo contracted polio, a very serious disease that causes paralysis. Because of this, she was bedridden for nine months. Though she recovered, the disease damaged Kahlo’s right leg and foot and caused her to limp. Her father suggested that she play soccer, swim, and wrestle to regain her strength.

In 1922, as a teenager, Kahlo enrolled at the famous National Preparatory School in Mexico. In addition to being one of the few female students here, she became known for her joyful persona and love of traditional Mexican clothing and colorful jewelry.

That same year, the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera came to the Preparatory School to work on a mural called The Creation . According to some, Kahlo deeply admired Rivera’s work and lusted after the artist, too.

On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and her then-boyfriend Alejandro Gomez Anas, a fellow student at the Preparatory School, were traveling on a bus when they got into a terrible accident. A steel handrail pierced Kahlo and caused fractures to her pelvis and spine.

Kahlo slowly recovered from this accident in Mexico City at the Red Cross Hospital. During her convalescence, she began to paint. In 1926, she completed her first self-portrait. Also during this time, Kahlo gained interest in politics and joined both the Mexican Communist Party and the Young Communist League.

Two years later, Kahlo reconnected with Rivera who encouraged her artistic endeavors. In 1929, the two married. In the early years of their marriage, Kahlo followed her new husband from city to city based on Rivera’s commissions. While they were together in San Francisco in 1930, Kahlo showed her painting Frieda and Diego Rivera at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists.

In 1932, Kahlo’s work started to become what some might consider strange. A great example of this is her painting Henry Ford Hospital . This painting, very graphic and surreal in nature, portrays the story of Kahlo’s second miscarriage. It depicts Kahlo on a hospital bed with odd objects connected to her with red strings.

Kahlo and Rivera’s relationship was not the typical marriage. They lived in separate homes in San Angel and often went through periods of separation. Sometimes, the two also joined in political pursuits.

In 1939, Kahlo moved to Paris. Here, she became friends with many artists including Pablo Picasso. In this same year, she divorced Rivera and painted what is now one of her most famous masterpieces, The Two Fridas . In this painting, ‘two Fridas’ are sitting side-by-side with exposed hearts. One Frida has a damaged heart and is dressed in white, while the other sits in bright colors with an intact heart.

Following a brief divorce, Kahlo and Rivera remarried in 1940. However, they continued to live relatively separate lives. After completing a number of projects while distanced from Rivera, Kahlo painted The Broken Column in 1944. This work illustrates a nearly-naked Kahlo spliced down the middle, unveiling her spine as a decorative yet shattered column. The painting was intended to comment on the multiple physical challenges Kahlo faced at the time.

Kahlo continued to face many health issues in the following years. In 1950, she was diagnosed with gangrene in her right foot, which was ultimately amputated. Gangrene is a condition that occurs when body tissue dies due to a loss of blood supply. This is typically caused by illness, injury, or infection.

Despite her physical struggles, Kahlo had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953. Yet, she began to decline mentally and attempted suicide in 1954. Due to her declining health, Kahlo died a week after her 47th birthday on July 13, 1954.

Four years later, Kahlo’s Blue House was opened as a museum. Many came to honor her and, following the Feminist movement of the 1970s, Kahlo’s legacy gained an even greater following. Though Kahlo died decades ago, she is still remembered as a political icon and incredible artist to this day.

[Source: Source: biography.com ]

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This is excellent work, Layla. Great Job!! – James Kramer , Monona, WI (2017-01-29 20:16)
Layla, your article about Frida Kahlo was fascinating. I had no idea the artist went through so many health issues and yet was able to bring her creations to the world. Now I'm interested in seeing Frida Kahlo's work in person now. All because of your article! Great job! – Shoko Miyagi , UW-Madison (2017-01-29 21:18)
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