Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon in her parents' house in Coyoacan, which used to be a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her father was a painter and photographer of German-Jewish background. Following a crippling traffic accident in 1925, Kahlo turned her attention from a medical career to painting. Drawing on her personal experiences, her works are often shocking in their stark portrayal of pain and the harsh lives of women.
Fifty-five of her 143 paintings are self-portraits that incorporate personal symbolism complete with graphic anatomical references. She was also influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, aspects of which she portrayed in bright colors, with a mixture of realism and symbolism. Her paintings attracted the attention of the artist Diego Rivera, whom she later married, divorced, and re-married. An active Communist supporter, she also had an affair with Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated by agents of Stalin in Mexico City in 1940.
Although Kahlo's work is sometimes classified as surrealist and she did exhibit several times with European surrealists, she herself disputed the label. Her preoccupation with female themes and the figurative openess with which she expressed them, made her something of a feminist cult figure in the last decades of the 20th century.
She most probably committed suicide on July 13, 1954, her ashes placed in a pre-Columbian urn which are on display in her former home La Casa Azul in Coyoacan, which has been turned into a museum containing a number of her works. There have been several films made about her life, the latest being in 2002 by Miramax who released a motion picture titled Frida, starring Salma Hayek in the title role.
The Queen of Mexican art!
Location:Gelman Collection, Mexico City
Frida Kahlo's relationship with Diego Rivera was as intense as it was all consuming. This painting seems to express how much he was on her mind. "I cannot speak of Diego as my husband because that term, when applied to him, is an absurdity. He never has been, nor will he ever be, anybody's husband." "The most interesting thing about the so-called lies of Diego is that, sooner or later, the ones involved in the imaginary tale get angry, not because of the lies, but because of the truth contained in the lies, which always comes forth. "
Location:Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City
In 1939 Diego Rivera and Frida divorced. She felt very sad and distraught by this. She produced many fine paintings in this period, but being devastated by the divorce, she drank a lot and her health deteriorated rapidly. She had circulatory and other problems associated with the incidents she had had before. In this painting she tells a sad story of self-alienation and despair.
Diego and Frida were married on August 21, 1929. There were many affairs with other people, creative bonding, hate, and a divorce in 1939 that lasted only for one year. Their marriage has been called the union between an elephant and a dove, because Diego was huge and very fat, and Frida was small (a little over 5 feet) and slender. Despite Diego's notorious womanising (one was with Frida's sister) she never ceased loving him. He was the one who suggested that she should begin wearing the traditional Mexican clothing, which consisted of long, colourful dresses and exotic jewellery. This, along with Frida's thick, connecting eyebrows, became her trademark. He also loved her work and was her greatest admirer. Frida, in turn, was Diego's most trusted critic, and the love of his life.
Location:Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
Frida Kahlo's work has sometimes been classified as surrealist. She never saw herself as a surrealist painter. She was preoccupied with themes of the female. She was able to express them with energy and candour as well as a wonderful sense of beauty. Her self-portraits, such as this one, can be hunting and amusing at the same time. "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." "I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."
As a result of a crippling bus accident at age 15, in which a handrail went through her body from one side to the other at the level of the pelvis, Frida has often represented her body as a mix of flesh and objects. In The Broken Column we can see into her opened body: a broken ionic column substitutes the spinal column.
Location:National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington
Frida was married to the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Throughout her marriage, she carried on affairs with all sorts of famous and beautiful people. Diego carried on affairs as well. Diego and Frida did love each other but they were wild people and free thinkers. Frida was the most desired woman of her time and she seduced anyone that she felt attracted to. The famous affair with the fugitive Communist leader, Leon Trotsky began when he was a guest at her home along with his wife. When Trotsky was murdered, for a while, both she and Diego were under suspicion. Several years after Trotsky's death, Diego and Frida enjoyed telling people that they invited him to Mexico just to get him killed, but no one knows if they were telling the truth or not.
Learning art through great artists and their paintings is fun and exciting. Our friend and resident artist Stefan Mager has kindly given this introduction to the art world.