Updated: Feb 15, 2022
When we look at Art history, it would be incomplete without Frida Kahlo. She
has been one of the quintessential artists of the era, who has greatly exerted an
influence around, through her art, and liberated her emotions with brilliance. A
Mexican artist, born in 1907 was renowned for her self portraits and works
reflecting the Mexican culture.
Frida Kahlo was born to a German father and a mestiza mother and lived most of
her life at La Casa Azul which was made public in 1958 (after her death) as a
museum dedicated to her. As a child, she had suffered from Polio although it
didn't last long. When she was eighteen while heading to her medical school, she
met with an accident that caused her life long injury and a complete three months
of bed rest. During the recovery, since she had a lot of time to explore her inner
self, she went back to her childhood hobby -Art. Over time, she grew
a profound interest in art and wanted to become a medical illustrator which would
have both of her interests - Science and Art. At that point in time, who knew that
a mishap will turn a blessing for Frida Kahlo and she would find what she had
been made for!
In the early days, her paintings mostly included self-portraits and the portraits of
her sisters and school friends. She once explained, "I paint myself because I am
often alone and I am the subject I know the best." Art was just not mere painting
for her! It became a way through which she could find out answers to her identity
and existence. When she was young, Fernando Fernandez, her father's friend
taught her drawing. He always knew that Frida has inborn talent but she didn't
pursue art as a profession at that time.
In 1927, she became active in politics as well and joined the Mexican Communist
Party where she met the love of her life, Diego Rivera who was also an artist. The
couple tied the knot in the year 1929 and spent the early years of marriage traveling
Mexico and the United States. They shifted to Cuernavaca which led Kahlo to discover
her own artistic style. She was immensely inspired by the Mexican folk culture
and her paintings delineated the pre-Columbian and Catholic beliefs.
She was inspired by European artists, Sandro Botticelli and Bronzino, and
movements like Neue Sachlichkeit and Cubism. She had also raised issues related
to postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.
Kahlo was inspired by multiple artists like Edward Weston and Ralph Stackpole when she moved to San Francisco in 1930. It was during these days that she painted Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931), a double portrait inspired by their wedding photograph. It was the painting that was included in the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists in the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
After returning to Mexico in 1934, Frida's health deteriorated further due to which
she couldn't paint much. Hereafter, her paintings mainly depicted her medical
issues featuring Kahlo bleeding and portraying a strong sense of pain and
In the later years, a change was seen in her artistic style: her brushstrokes became
hastier unlike the previous delicate and careful strokes. Her color combination
became more bright and the overall style became more intense. She drew Broken
Coloumn (1944), Without hope (1945), and stand Fast (1946) which reflected her
poor health and still life.
Knowing that Kahlo won't live long, photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo organized
her first solo exhibition in Mexico at the Galeria Arte Contemporaneo in April,
1953. Since she was on complete bed rest, she arranged for a bed in the gallery and
was taken by the ambulance. This became a notable event and came into view of
mainstream media around the world.
The Tate Museum considers Kahlo as one of the most significant artists of the 20th
century. She was also the first Mexican artist whose painting (The Frame) got
featured in the Lovre museum. Throughout her life, she was known as the wife of
Deigo Rivera and was less popular until the early 70s when she reached the
zenith of her career posthumously.
She is a true inspiration for all. Despite all odds, be it her divorce and
reconciliation with her husband, her miscarriage, and medical issues, she persisted
and proved to be an epitome of a true aesthete.