Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter renowned for her numerous portraits, self-portraits and influenced depictions depicting Mexico’s environment and objects. Inspired by the popular culture of the region, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore nationality, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race issues within Mexican society. Her paintings also had heavy autobiographical elements and blended with fantasy realism. Kahlo has been defined as a surrealist or magical realist in addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement which sought to establish a Mexican identity.
Kahlo was born to a German father and a mestiza mother and lived much of her youth and adult life at La Casa Azul, her ancestral home in Coyoacán, now accessible to the public as the Frida Kahlo Museum. While crippled by polio as a infant, Kahlo had been a talented medical school student before she experienced a bus crash at the age of eighteen, which triggered her lifelong pain and medical problems.
She returned to her childhood art passion during her rehab, with the intention of becoming an artist.
She established her painting style, taking her key influence from Mexican folk culture, and often painted small self-portraits that blended pre-Columbian and Catholic elements. Her works attracted the attention of the Surrealist artist André Breton, who in 1938 arranged for Kahlo’s first solo show at New York’s Julien Levy Gallery; the show was a hit, accompanied by another in Paris in 1939.
She started to pursue a future as a medical illustrator after a bus crash in 1925 that left Kahlo unable to move for three months, and would incorporate her passions in medicine and photography. She had a specially designed stable which enabled her to paint in bed, and a mirror was put over it so she could see herself. Painting was a means for Kahlo to address personality and life problems, and she later claimed that the crash and the isolating time of rehabilitation caused her want ‘to continue anew, paint things exactly as she saw them through her own eyes and nothing more.’
Most of Kahlo’s paintings were portraits of herself, her sisters and her schoolfriends during this period. Her early paintings and correspondence indicate that she took influence especially from European artists, notably from Renaissance masters like Sandro Botticelli and Bronzino, and from avant-garde trends like Neue Sachlichkeit and Cubism. Her connection with La Raza, the Mexican community, and her profound curiosity in her history remained important aspects of her work for the remainder of her life. She adapted her creative style, taking influence from Mexican folk art ever more. Art historian Andrea Kettenmann suggests she may have been inspired by Adolfo Best Maugard’s treatise on the subject, as she integrated many of the characteristics he outlined — for starters, the absence of perspective and the fusion of elements from pre-Columbian and colonial Mexican art periods.
For Kahlo, who further evolved the folk art style she had embraced in Cuernavaca, the six months spent in San Francisco have been a fruitful time. In addition to painting portraits of many new friends, she created Frieda and Diego Rivera, a double portrait focused on their marriage image, and The Portrait of Luther Burbank, which portrayed the eponymous horticulturer as a cross of a human and plantation.
Kahlo also had several health problems linked to a premature child. Notwithstanding these health issues, Kahlo’s tenure in the city was good for her creative creativity, as well as her disdain for the patriarchal society in the USA. She worked with different methods, such as etching and frescoes, and her paintings started to display a better form of narration. She also began to stress the concepts of ‘danger, misery, wounds and pain.’ In light of the mural’s success in Mexican art at the time, she favored a diametrically opposite form, votive portraits or retablos, sacred drawings created by novice artists on tiny metal sheets to praise the saints for their help during her tragedy.
Kahlo did not create any new paintings on her return to Mexico City in 1934, and just two in the following year, leading to problems in health. Nevertheless, Kahlo’s musical life, after her divorce and then marriage with Rivera, was highly fruitful in 1937 and 1938. She created more than she had done in all her eight years of marriage before, producing works like My Nurse and I, Memories, the Heart, Mexico’s Four People, and What Water Offered Me. Though still unsure about her art , she was reciving so much more recognition.
With this new found fame of her’s. she also rand into a few peoblwma for example , she was hired to paint murals for Mexico City’s Posada del Sol, a restaurant. But soon after completion it was demolished, as the owner did not like it. Kahlo failed to make a profit out of her painting until the mid to late 1940s, when she declined to change her design according to the desires of her customers. In the early 1940s, she got hired for two other commissions from the Mexican government. She did not complete the first one, possibly due to her dislike of the subject, and the second commission was rejected by the commissioning body. Even, she had frequent private clients including engineer Eduardo Morillo Safa, who over the decade requested more than thirty portraits of family members.
Her health quickly deteriorated, and an unsuccessful surgery to stabilize her spine collapsed. Her paintings from this time included Broken Pillar, Without Hope, Tree of Hope, Stand Quick, and The Wounded Deer which represented her weak physical condition. Kahlo had been largely limited to the Casa Azul during her last years. She often painted still lives, portraying fruits and flowers with liberal references such as flags or doves. She also switched her style of painting: her formerly fragile and deliberate brushstrokes became rushed now, her usage of color more brash, and the overall look more vigorous and feverish.
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