Artist
Frida Kahlo
Mexican painter

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Frida Kahlo
Mexican painter

Birth Date

July 06, 1907

Death Date

July 13, 1954

Contributor

Without question, Frida Kahlo sports the most famous unibrow in art history.

This iconic artist was a Mexican communist, and proud of it. She often wore the colorful Tehuana indigenous dress, which also served to cover up her deformed leg, due to a bout with childhood polio. Frida wasn't self-conscious though. Her many self portraits are brutally honest, reflecting the lifelong physical pain caused by a nasty bus accident when she was 18 years old.

Anguish from her tumultuous relationship with famous husband artist Diego Rivera is also fair game in her work. Rivera and Kahlo had a rocky relationship to say the least. They married, divorced, remarried, cheating all the while. Rivera was known as a ladies' man from day one and made no attempt to cover up his affairs. Kahlo was madly in love with Rivera and was deeply hurt by his philandering ways. She was outgoing, charming, with an off-color sense of humor and as such had no problem engaging in outrageous affairs herself. One of her lovers was the infamous communist Trotsky, who had the misfortune of being murdered during a visit with Kahlo and Rivera.

She once said, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter." Renowned surrealist artist Andre Breton described Kahlo’s work as, “A ribbon around a bomb.” Both the artist and her work were definitely edgy! This might be why she only had three major shows during her lifetime. But now, of course, her list of achievements is endless. Since her death in 1954 Kahlo has been become the...

  • First Mexican woman featured on an U.S. postage stamp.
  • Star of Frida, a biographical film grossing $58 million worldwide (played by Salma Hayek, no less!).
  • Subject of the novel Lacuna by best selling author Barbara Kingsolver.
  • A Google logo on the 100th anniversary of her birthdate. 

Viva Frida!

 

Contributor

Frida Kahlo ranks very high on the league table of artists who endured a great deal of physical pain and suffering.
 
She started early. Some researchers think she was born with spina bifida and all agree she contracted polio at age 6. At 18 she got crushed in a horrific bus versus trolley accident for which she had to endure over 30 surgeries. At age 46 one of her legs became gangrenous and was partially amputated, and at age 47 she died of a pulmonary embolism. 
 
Some think she committed suicide from an overdose of pain killers. They cite a diary entry which read 'I am waiting to kill myself' and her last diary entry, which says 'I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to come back.'
 
Frida dealt with all of this pain by painting and drinking. The drinking was not very successful. 'I tried to drown my sorrows,' she reportedly said, 'but the bastards learnt how to swim.' The painting worked out fine.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈfɾiða ˈkalo]; born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón; 6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954) was a Mexican artist who painted many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society. Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.

Born to a German father and a mestiza mother, Kahlo spent most of her childhood and adult life at her family home in Coyoacán, La Casa Azul, now known and publicly accessible as the Frida Kahlo Museum. She was disabled by polio as a child. Until a traffic accident at age eighteen caused lifelong pain and medical problems, she had been a promising student headed for medical school. During her recovery, she returned to her childhood hobby of art with the idea of becoming an artist.

Kahlo's interests in politics and art led to the next stage of her life. In 1927, she joined the Mexican Communist Party, through which she met celebrated muralist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1928. The relationship was volatile and included a year-long divorce; both had extramarital affairs. Kahlo spent the late 1920s and early 1930s traveling in Mexico and the United States with Rivera. During this time, she developed her own style as an artist, drew her main inspiration from Mexican folk culture, and painted mostly small self-portraits which mixed elements from pre-Columbian and Catholic mythology. Her paintings raised the interest of Surrealist artist André Breton, who arranged for Kahlo's first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938. The exhibition was a success and was followed by another in Paris in 1939. While the French exhibition was less successful, the Louvre purchased a painting from Kahlo, The Frame, making her the first Mexican artist to be featured in their collection. Throughout the 1940s, Kahlo participated in exhibitions in Mexico and the United States. She taught at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda" and became a founding member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana. Kahlo's always fragile health began to decline in the same decade. She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953, shortly before her death in 1954 at the age of 47.

Kahlo was mainly known as Rivera's wife until the late 1970s, when her work was rediscovered by art historians and political activists. By the early 1990s, she had become not only a recognized figure in art history, but also regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the Feminism movement, and the LGBTQ movement. Kahlo's work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and Indigenous traditions, and by feminists for what is seen as its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Frida Kahlo.