Monday, May 14, 2012

Frida Kahlo - Biography

Frida Kahlo: A Biography

Lindsay M.
Frida Kahlo is a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits, unmistakable unibrow and traditional style of dress.  She was well-liked and received no matter where she went, and often admired.  Her paintings embodied both the Mexican culture and the feminine experience, marking her as one of the most well-known and influential Mexican painters, as well as my favorite painter.
Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico. Her father was Hungarian and Jewish, and her mother was Spanish and Native American.  She also had three sisters.  At the age of six, Kahlo contracted polio, which, though she survived, gave her a permanent limp in her right leg.   Often regarded as her father's favorite,  he strongly encouraged her entry into la Preparatoria, the "most prestigious educational institution" in Mexico.  Kahlo was one of only thirty five girls (out of a total two thousand students) enrolled in the school ("Frida Kahlo"). She was set to continue onto higher education, pursuing medicine, until 1925, when, at the age of 18, Kahlo suffered a streetcar accident.  This left her with fractures to her spine, collarbone and ribs, a shattered pelvis, and several other injuries (  Due to her injuries, Kahlo was confined to over a year of bed rest, which inspired her to begin painting.
Kahlo once said "I suffered two grave accidents in my life...One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego" (  The second accident she is referring to is Diego Rivera, another famous Mexican muralust, whom she met in 1928.  She met him when a friend began introducing her to the "artistic crowd" of Mexico (Frida Kahlo: Biography).  Kahlo and Rivera were married in 1929, when she was 22 and he was 42.  She refers to Rivera as an "accident" because of their incredibly stormy marriage.  It is difficult to chronicle one without speaking a great deal about the other: Kahlo and Rivera were very public in their relationship and were frequently seen together, less frequently apart.  This is particularly noticeable during their time in America (1930-1935).  Despite their continual appearances together, though, the couple experienced a great deal of turbulence.  Rivera was never faithful to a woman in his life, and perhaps his worst infidelity was his affair with Kahlo's sister in 1935.  It was this affair that prompted Kahlo's extramarital affairs, with both men and women.  In addition, the pressures of each person's careers combined with their strong personalities and Kahlo's poor health caused much friction between the two (  They actually divorced in 1940, though after a year, remarried.
Frida Kahlo is best known for her autoretratos, or self-portraits.  Of the nearly 150 works that Kahlo produced in her lifetime, 55 were self-portraits.  Kahlo stated that this was because "I am so often alone...I am the subject I know best." (  During her time on bed rest, Kahlo had a mirror placed above her bed and an easel rigged such that it was fairly easy for her to paint while laying in bed.  Her artwork is often considered feminist because of its "uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form" (  Though she enjoyed much more fame and popularity postmortem, Kahlo's paintings were widely popular both in her home country of Mexico and in other countries, including the United States.  She also met many famous painters and writers, such as Pablo Picasso and Pablo Neruda.
Though her actual year of birth is 1907, Kahlo always said that her year of birth was 1910, which, not coincidentally, is the year of the outbreak of the Mexican revolution.  Kahlo stated that her life would begin with "the birth of modern Mexico" ("Frida Kahlo : Biography").  Kahlo was incredibly proud of her heritage and always advocated for her country.  Her art always reflected this, as well as a feminist experience and the indigenous history of the region (  In 1946, Kahlo recieved a Mexican government fellowship, and also began teaching at a new experimental art school, La Esmaralda.
Kahlo's health continued to deteriorate throughout her life, though noticeably moreso from 1944 onward ("Frida Kahlo").  At the end of her life, Kahlo had had a total of thirty surgeries, and in 1950 had spent a year in a hospital in Mexico City.  After her year in the hospital, Kahlo also became an active member of the Communist party.
Kahlo's first, and only, solo show was in 1953 in Mexico at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo in the Zona Rosa of Mexico City ("Frida Kahlo").  Though it seemed that Kahlo was going to be too ill to attend, she had an ambulance escort her and sent her bed ahead of her, so that she could lay in her bed and still attend her opening.  However, her health continued to worsen, and with the amputation of her right leg below the knee, Kahlo became incredibly depressed.  Her final public appearance was in a Communist demonstration against the overthrow of Guatamalan president Jacobo Arbenz ("Frida Kahlo).  Later that month, Kahlo died in her sleep, though there is speculation that Kahlo committed suicide.  Her final diary entry read "I hope the end is joyful, and I hope never to return."
After her death,  Rivera donated the "Blue House", a house which the couple shared, to become a museum.  On July 12, 1958, the "Blue House" was officially opened as the "Museo Frida Kahlo".

"Frida Kahlo : Biography (1907 - 1954)." Frida Kahlo : Biography (1907 - 1954). Web. 14 May 2012. <>.
"Frida Kahlo." Frida Kahlo. 2012. Web. 14 May 2012. <> 

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