Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo
(1907 - 1954)

Mexican Painter

The Life and Work of Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a painter.

She was married to the renowned Mexican political muralist Diego Rivera, Her unusual and dramatic paintings consisted mainly of self-portraits. Her paintings were reflections of her personal life story, her ill health (following childhood illness and a traffic accident in her youth), her passionate relationship with Diego Rivera, and her world view and beliefs.

Frida Kahlo had no formal training in art but was appreciated by many artists including Pablo Picasso. Her life revolved around a life of socialising with famous people like artists and political activists - she had many lovers both male and female including Leon Trotsky who lived nearby in exile from Russia.

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon (she later dropped the e from Frieda) was born on 6 July 1907 in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. This was a time of great political and economic changes in Mexico - the Mexican Revolution occurred when she was 3 years old. A sense of nationalism took hold that included a glorification of the country's indigenous roots and culture. A tradition of Mexican muralism grew from these changes - a method of expressing national pride that was distinctly Mexican. Frida later changed her year of birth to 1910 to coincide with the year of the Mexican Revolution.

Frida's father was Guillermo Kahlo, one of Mexico's most well-known photographers and the son of Hungarian Jews from Germany. He had a lasting influence on her life by recognising and encouraging her intellectual independence, creativity and curiosity. Her mother was Matilde Calderon, a Mexican of mixed Indigenous and Spanish ancestry. Frida had little in common with her mother, a devout and conservative catholic.

Frida was born in a house called the Casa Azul ("Blue House") which was built by her father a few years before her birth. She was raised, lived, worked and died in that house - it is now a museum in Mexico City.

When she was 6 years old, Frida contracted polio. This left her right foot turned outward and left her right leg thinner than her left. It also affected her schooling.

By her teens, Frida was committed to ideals of revolution and the Mexican people. She expressed this in her art, her dress, her behaviour, and the decorations of her home. She began to wear elaborate jewelry and colourful clothing in the style of the indigenous people. She piled her hair on her head and decorated it with bright ribbons and bows. She always rebelled against the Americanisation of her country and its values.

While studying at the National Preparatory School she met Diego Rivera, an artist whose work she admired. Although he was older than her, she began a relationship with him that would last for the rest of her life and include two marriages.

In 1925 Frida was involved in a traffic accident that changed her life. She was traveling on a bus home from school on a bus which collided with a tram. The collision drove a piece of iron into her pelvis and back breaking several bones in her ribs and leg. The accident caused her pain and health problems for the rest of her life - in addition it damaged her womb making child bearing impossible. Throughout her life, she had over 30 operations on her spine, back and polio-affected foot.

During her long and painful recovery from the accident Frida began painting. A special easel was bought for her as she was required to spend long periods of time flat on her back in bed. She began to express her pain and her passion trough her painting. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self portraints. These often feature the bright colours typical of Mexican indigenous culture and contain symbols of her suffering and a preoccupation with female themes.

Frida Kahlo with Monkey   Frida Kahlo with Diego Rivera   Frida Kahlo as a Child
Frida Kahlo - self portraits

In 1929, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera married (divorcing for a year in 1940 and then remarrying). Frida Kahlo was a vibrant, extroverted character. She was a heavy smoker and drinker and openly bisexual at a time and in a culture where these qualities were not encouraged. Her fame grew, first outside Mexico and, towards the end of her life, in Mexico itself.

Frida Kahlo died on 13 July 1954. Her husband donated the Casa Azul to the Mexican nation where it has been maintained as a museum.

All images external copyright.

Books From and

KryssTal Related Pages

Inventions from the first part of the 20th centuary.

These are words found in English from Nahuatl, the Aztec language of Mexico.

External Frida Kahlo Links

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A site featuring information about the artist.

Frida Kahlo - Contemporary Thoughts
Lots of information and links about the artist.

Frida Kahlo
More links.