Frida Kahlo is one of the most famous female artists in the world. She is considered by many to be one of Mexico’s best artists. Frida was a painter who is known for drawing inspiration from elements of Mexican culture. She is celebrated for her vibrant self portraits that show her defying beauty standards.
Born to a German immigrant and Mexican-Ameridian in 1907, Frida grew up with many influential cultures that inspired her art. However, before Frida became a famous painter her life was hard.
As a child Frida was in poor health and contracted polio at only six years old. She was bedridden for 9 months, leaving one of her legs shrunken. Because of this deformity she wore long skirts for the rest of her life in an attempt to hide it. Despite this, her father encouraged her to do sports in the hopes it would help her recover. She played soccer, swam, and even wrestled which was an unusual thing for women at the time.
On top of being one of the only girl wrestlers of the time, Frida was also one of only 35 girls that went to the National Preparatory School in Mexico City. She was well known for her outspoken and “unladylike” behavior. While at school, she joined a group of students in which she shared the same political opinions. The leader of the group was Alejandro Gomez Arias, who Frida fell in love with. While traveling with Arias their bus collided with a streetcar, leaving Frida severely injured. She was impaled in the hip by a steel handrail which fractured her spine and pelvis. Frida had to stay in the hospital for weeks and was eventually put in a full body cast for 3 months. But, this horrible accident was what started her career as a painter. While confined to a bed, her parents urged her to paint to pass the time. They made her a special easel so she could easily paint while lying down and bought her boxes of art supplies. Within a year, she had finished her first self portrait.
After the accident in 1928, Frida connected with Diego Rivera, another student from the political group. Diego was a fellow artist and they quickly formed a romantic relationship. Despite Frida’s mother’s disapproval, the two got married the following year. At the beginning of their married life, the couple moved all over because of Diego’s work. In 1933, while living in New York City, Diego was commissioned to paint a mural for the Rockefeller Center. In the painting, Diego tried to include communist leader Vladimir Lenin. Rockefeller stopped the painting and painted over Lenin. Deigo and Frida were forced to move back to Mexico after the incident. Frida and Deigo’s marriage was an unusual one. They lived in separate houses and both were reported to have numerous affairs. In 1937, the couple helped Leon Troskvy, an exiled communist and rival of Joseph Stalin, and Frida had an affair with him while he stayed at their home.
In 1938, Frida was introduced to Andre Breton, a prominent figure of the Surrealist movement. Becoming friends with Andre helped Frida realize her own art style. The next year, Andre invited Frida to Paris with him. There she was introduced to more famous artists such as Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso. While in Paris, several pieces of her art were put on display, gaining her popularity with the French. That same year, Frida and Diego got a divorce. During that time Frida painted one of her most famous paintings, The Two Frida’s. But the divorce was short, within the next year Frida and Deigo were remarried with the same bad habits as before.
Things became hard for Frida. Her father, who she was very close to, passed and she was stricken with grief. On top of that, Frida began to suffer from severe chronic pain and health problems. She was commissioned by the Mexican government to paint five portraits of important Mexican women, but was unable to finish the project. But, despite these challenges Frida was going through her work was gaining popularity and she was more famous than ever before. In the year of 1944, Frida painted ‘The Broken Column’, a painting that showed her struggling health and the intense pain she was in. During this time Frida underwent several surgeries and had to wear special corsets designed to help her spine. She sought many medical treatments for the pain, but nothing alleviated it.
As she grew older her health deteriorated. Frida was diagnosed with gangrene in 1944 and later had to amputate part of her leg because of the disease. She was bedridden for 9 months, but this didn’t stop her from continuing her art. In the year of 1953, she had a solo exhibition in Mexico. Because of her limited mobility, Frida arrived by ambulance and spent the night confined to a bed the gallery set out for her.
Frida was deeply depressed because of her worsening health condition. She went to the hospital multiple times in 1953, some of those visits for her mental health. One week after Frida Kahlo’s 47th birthday she passed away. The public records say that cause of death was pulmonary ebolism but rumors have circulated saying it was suicide.
Frida’s death did not stop her growing popularity. Her Blue House was opened to the public as a museum in 1958. The feminism movement of the 1970’s revived Frida’s work as she was seen as an icon of feminine creativity and art. More attention was drawn to her in the 1980’s when Hayden Herrara wrote a biography about the great artist, A Biography of Frida Kahlo. Frida Kahlo was an influential artist whose work will live on for many years to come.
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