Childhood & Early Life
Frida Kahlo was born on 6 July 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico, to Guillermo Kahlo, a photographer and Matilde Calderón¬ y González.
In 1922, she started attending ‘Escuela Nacional Preparatoria,’ one of Mexico’s leading schools. She grew up at the time of the ‘Mexican Revolution’ and witnessed many incidents of violence and armed struggle.
In 1924, she learned photography from her father and was taught how to use the camera and develop photographs. This experience would later help in her future endeavors.
Before the bus accident of 1925, she worked as an apprentice under Fernando Fernandez, a commercial paint maker. He taught her the basics of drawing and copy printing.
On September 17, 1925, she suffered serious injuries as a result of an accident - the bus she was travelling in collided with a trolley car. She suffered severe and multiple injuries.
In 1926, while she was recovering from injuries, she experimented with painting and tried her hand at watercolors and oil paints. The following year, she recovered and became a member of the ‘Young Communist League.’
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In 1930, she moved to San Francisco with her husband Diego Rivera, where he had been offered a project to paint murals. She met many prominent personalities from the field of art and painted a double portrait titled ‘Frieda and Diego Rivera’ (1931).
In 1931, she displayed her work to the public for the first time at the ‘Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists.’ Here, she displayed ‘Frieda and Diego Rivera,’ a portrait of Diego Rivera and herself.
In May 1931, she returned to Mexico alone and her husband joined her in June. In November that year, she traveled to New York with her husband via sea to attend his retrospective exhibition at the ‘Museum of Modern Art.’
In 1937, four of her paintings were showcased at the ‘Galeria de Arte’ by ‘National Autonomous University of Mexico.’ This was the first public exhibition of her artwork in Mexico.
In 1938, she met French poet and surrealist Andre Breton, who had a look at her unfinished painting ‘What the Water Gave Me.’ He labeled it as a surreal work and offered to display her art in Paris.
Later in 1938, four of her paintings were purchased by art collector and actor Edward G. Robinson, who paid $200 for each of the paintings. This was one of her noteworthy sales.
In October 1938, she traveled to New York in order to showcase her first solo exhibition, which was held at the ‘Julien Levy Gallery.’ She displayed 25 of her paintings and more than half of them were sold.
In 1939, she displayed her artworks at the ‘Mexique’ exhibition in Paris, which opened at the ‘Colle Gallery.’ Her self-portrait ‘The Frame’ was purchased by ‘Louvre,’ the largest museum in the world.
In 1940, her paintings ‘The Two Fridas’ and ‘The Wounded Table’ were displayed at the ‘International Surrealism Exhibition,’ which was held at the ‘Gallery of Mexican Art.’
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Later in 1940, she traveled to San Francisco to display her work at the exhibition of ‘Contemporary Mexican Painting and Graphic Art,’ which was held at the ‘Palace of Fine Art.’
In 1941, her artwork was displayed at the ‘Modern Mexican Painters’ exhibition, which was held at the ‘Institute of Contemporary Arts’ in Boston. The following year, she was a participant at the ‘Seminar of Mexican Culture.’
In 1942, she displayed her ‘Self Portrait with Braid’ at an exhibition named ‘20th Century Portraits,’ which opened at the ‘Museum of Modern Art’ in New York.
In January 1943, she participated in ‘Exhibition by 31 Women’ which was part of the ‘Art of This Century’ exhibition that opened at New York. The same year, she displayed her works at the ‘Mexican Artists’ exhibition in New York.
In 1944, she displayed her works in a group show exhibition titled ‘Gallery of Contemporary Painters’ at New York. The same year, she also held two exhibitions called the ‘Second Salon of the Flower’ and ‘The Child in Mexican Painting’ in Mexico.
In 1947, her painting ‘Self-Portrait as a Tehuana’ was displayed at an exhibition titled ‘Forty-Five Self-Portraits by Mexican Painters from the 18th to the 20th Centuries,’ which was held at the ‘National Institute of Fine Arts’ in Mexico.
In 1949, her works ‘Diego and I’ and ‘The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Señor Xolotl’ were displayed at the ‘Salon de la Plástica Mexicana.’
In 1953, her solo art exhibition was held at the ‘Galería Arte Contemporaneo’ in Mexico. In spite of being bedridden and ill, she attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition.
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Her self-portrait ‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ is one of her seminal works. In this painting, she depicted herself as a victim, wearing a necklace of thorns. This has been showcased in over 25 museums in the United States. It has also been displayed in countries like Australia, Canada, France, and Spain.
Her painting ‘The Broken Column,’ which was painted right after she underwent spine surgery, is a metaphorical depiction of her suffering and one of her most important works. This painting is symbolic of her physical and psychological struggles.
Personal Life & Legacy
At the age of six, she was affected by polio. In 1925, she met with an accident that resulted in a severe spinal injury, broken ribs and pelvis, dislocation of shoulder and right foot, and damage to her uterus and abdomen.
In 1929, she married Diego Rivera, a Mexican painter. However, the marriage was not a fulfilling one. She, being a bisexual, had affairs with both women and men. They eventually divorced in 1939.
All her life, she suffered from health problems and underwent several operations as a result of the deadly accident that she had in 1925.
In 1931, she got involved in an extra-marital affair with photographer Nickolas Muray. Their affair went on for ten years.
Some of the people she was intimately involved with included, Isamu Noguchi and Josephine Baker.
She died on 13 July 1954, at the age of 47 in Mexico due to lung failure. Before her death, she was bedridden and ill with gangrene.
In 2002, actress Salma Hayek portrayed her in the Academy Award-nominated biographical film ‘Frida.’