Frida Kahlo Biography

(Mexican Painter Known for Her Brilliantly Coloured Self-Portraits)

Birthday: July 6, 1907 (Cancer)

Born In: Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico

Frida Kahlo was a great Mexican painter, best known for her self-portraits. She combined traditional Mexican folk art with surrealism, making her paintings a symbolic form of self-expression. A self-taught artist, Kahlo hadn’t thought of painting as her first career choice until a tragic incident left her severely injured, changing her destiny. She spent most of her recovery time painting and later went on to choose this as a medium to convey her pain and suffering. Some of her most notable works include ‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,’ ‘Memory, the Heart,’ ‘Henry Ford Hospital,’ ‘The Broken Column,’ ‘Me and My Parrots,’ ‘Self-Portrait with Monkey,’ ‘What the Water Gave Me,’ and ‘The Dream (The Bed).’ One of the best-known artists of the 20th century, Kahlo spent her entire life in chronic pain and suffered from infertility and disability. Leading an unhappy marital life, Kahlo had several extramarital affairs and was one of the most sexually liberated women of her time.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón

Died At Age: 47


Spouse/Ex-: Diego Rivera (m. 1929; div. 1939, m. 1940), m. 1940)

father: Guillermo Kahlo

mother: Carl Wilhelm Kahlo

siblings: Adriana Kahlo Calderón, Cristina Kahlo, Margarita Kahlo Cardena, Maria Kahlo Cardena, Maria Luisa Kahlo Cardena, Matilde Kahlo Calderón, Wilhelm Kahlo Calderón

Born Country: Mexico

Artists & Painters Mexican Women

Died on: July 13, 1954

place of death: Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico

Personality: ISFP

Cause of Death: Pulmonary Embolism

Ancestry: German Mexican, Spanish Mexican

City: Mexico City, Mexico

  • 1

    What inspired Frida Kahlo's artwork?

    Frida Kahlo's artwork was inspired by her personal experiences, Mexican culture, and her physical and emotional pain.
  • 2

    Why is Frida Kahlo considered a feminist icon?

    Frida Kahlo is considered a feminist icon because of her bold self-expression, challenging of societal norms, and portrayal of female experiences.
  • 3

    What role did Frida Kahlo play in the Mexican art movement?

    Frida Kahlo was a key figure in the Mexican art movement known as "Mexicanidad," which emphasized indigenous Mexican culture and traditions.
  • 4

    How did Frida Kahlo's health issues influence her art?

    Frida Kahlo's health issues, particularly her chronic pain and disabilities from a bus accident, heavily influenced the themes and symbolism in her art.
  • 5

    What is the significance of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits?

    Frida Kahlo's self-portraits are significant because they provide a window into her inner world, emotions, and identity, challenging traditional notions of self-representation.
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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Major Works
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.
Awards & Achievements
In 1946, she received the ‘National Prize of Arts and Sciences,’ which was conferred upon her by the ‘Ministry of Public Education.’
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.’
Facts About Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo had a pet deer named Granizo, which she adored and even included in some of her self-portraits.
Frida Kahlo's unique sense of style extended to her prosthetic leg, which she decorated with intricate designs and vibrant colors.
Frida Kahlo was known for her love of animals, and she kept a variety of pets including monkeys, parrots, and dogs at her home in Mexico City.
Frida Kahlo was a talented cook and enjoyed hosting elaborate dinner parties for friends and family, often incorporating traditional Mexican recipes into her menus.
Frida Kahlo was fluent in several languages, including Spanish, English, and German, and she often incorporated quotes and poetry from different languages into her artwork.

See the events in life of Frida Kahlo in Chronological Order

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