Frida Kahlo – The Love and Life of the Famed Mexican Artist

I’ve had a fascination with Frida Kahlo since I fell in love with Mexico. Frida was a bohemian free-spirited Mexican artist who is known for her unfettered strength in overcoming debilating physical illness and bullying when she was a young girl, first bedridden with polio, then later in her young womanhood years after recovering from polio, she was severely injured and mamed for life from a bus accident. It was when she was bedridden for months in a body cast that her father invented a makeshift way to hang an easel above her so she could paint, leading to her life as an eventual famous artist.

 

“Who needs feet when I’ve got wings to fly” ~Frida Kahlo

 

Frida Kahlo was born – Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderon on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City, Mexico, and grew up during the Mexican revolution. Frida was the third of four daughters to her Mexican mother and her half German, half Hungarian father, born in Germany. When Frida was six years old she contracted polio and was left with one leg shorter than the other, which of course was good reason for other kids to make fun of her, despite the fact that she always wore long dresses to cover her smaller leg. And despite her illness she was quite clever and managed to excel through and finish high school at Prepatoria, which was recognized as one of Mexico’s presitigious high schools.

The first thing Frida is remembered for is the tragic accident she endured when a streetcar crashed into the bus that Frida was on. Frida was just 18 years old on that September 17th day in 1925. The accident had left Frida with several broken and fractured bones, most dangerously her spinal cord was fractured. Being bedridden and immobilized for many months in a full body cast, it was then that Frida began to paint, mostly self-portraits portraying externally how she felt on the inside. And during that time, she realized she wanted to be a painter more than to continue on to study medicine.

 

 “I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best” ~ Frida Kahlo

 

After Frida recovered from the accident, she formed relationships with other artists, and notably, the already famous Diego Rivera, who was 21 years her senior, and he ultimately, became her husband –  twice, and the love of her very interesting life.

Frida’s paintings continued to emphasize the pain she endured from the accident and the many operations that were to follow, and her exhaustive psychological pain. When asked about the symbolism of her paintings, this notable quote was Frida’s reply:

 

“I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”~ Frida Kahlo

 

Frida’s art was deeply influenced by her Mexican culture, many paintings using vivid colors and dramatic symbolism, as well as both Christian and Jewish themes. In 1939 the Louvre Museum in Paris bought Kahlo’s first piece of 20th century art.

When Frida recovered from being immobilized by the bus accident, she approached Diego Rivera, an already famous painter whose work Frida admired, for advice about pursuing her art career. Rivera knew Frida had talent and guided her to becoming famous in her own right, eventually leading to the fiery love affair they engaged in together. And despite the disapproval of her parents, Frida married Rivera in 1929. It is said her parents referred to them as the ‘elephant and the dove’ because of their vast size differential to each other.

The relationship between this odd couple was often touted as tumultuous. Both Kahlo and Rivera had fiery instincts, both had extra-marital affairs. Frida was also an open bi-sexual. The saying goes that Diego didn’t mind her illicit affairs with women, but he was extremely jealous when she strayed with another man. It is said that the only time Frida didn’t approve of Diego’s wanderings is when he had an affair with her younger sister. Some thought it was payback from Diego, but it was enough for Frida to end the marriage. But that wasn’t the end because they both remarried each other in 1940. And their second go at marriage was just as explosive as it was the first time round.

 

Frida Kahlo sketch

 

Later in their marriage, Frida and Diego became Mexican communist sympathizers and became good friends with Leon Trotsky. Later, Trotsky and his wife came to live with the Riveras while hiding out there as they sought sanctuary from the Soviet Union. And once again, Frida had an affair with Trotsky, which upset his wife and sent them packing, and eventually, they were found and Trotsky was assassinated.

Frida died on July 13th, 1954. It was said she died of a pulmonary embolism, but some others say she may have taken her own life with the many medications she took to dull her constant physical pain. In her last year she suffered pneumonia and gangrene in her leg, which was consequently, amputated at the knee. A few days before Frida died. she wrote in her diary:

 

“I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return – Frida” 

 

Today, Frida’s home in Coyoacán, a borough in Mexico City, known as the ‘Blue House’ – “Casa Azul”, is a museum housing many of Frida’s works and relics and a pre-Columbian urn containing her ashes. After Frida’s passing, in Diego’s autobiography, he writes that the most tragic day of his life was when Frida died, adding his regret that only too late did he realize that the best part of his life was the love he held for Frida.

 

Fun facts:

  • Frida was known for her ‘strong dark hairline’ across her lip and her almost unibrow above her eyes.
  • Frida lied about her age, telling people she was born in 1910 when the Mexican revolution began.
  • Frida appeared on the 1937 cover of American Vogue magazine in an article entitled Senoras of Mexico.
  • Frida and one of her sisters were briefly jailed as suspects of Leon Trotsky’s murder, but were soon cleared.
  • In 1953 just before Frida’s leg was amputated and she suffered with terrible pain, her first solo art exhibition was to take place in Mexico at the Galería Arte Contemporaneo. Kahlo was on bed rest and wasn’t about to miss her first solo exhibition so she stubbornly went by ambulance on a stretcher and had her bed moved to the event. It was a year later when Frida died.
  • Like many artists during their time, Frida wasn’t fully as famous in life as she was in death. Most of her adult life she was referred to as Diego’s wife rather than the talented artist recognition she didn’t gain respect for until after her death.
  • Frida’s fame was hugely acknowledged in the 1970s with the pop culture explosion. At this time women were starting to stand up to be counted and students questioned the exclusions of non Western artists. Also at this time was the coming out of the gay community, which also commended Frida for her openness about her sexuality and her fierce pride for her Mexican roots.

 

Frida Kahlo
I bought this painting of Frida Kahlo from an artist, on the beach. I watched him paint other Frida images and chose this one, which depicts her beauty and strength.

 

I also purchased on my numerous visits to Mexico, a beautiful beach coverup with a portrait of Frida painted on the back, as well as a beach bag with Frida’s face embroidered on the bag.

 

Frida Kahlo

 

(Note: the material is wrinkled, not her face)

 

Frida Kahlo

 

 

Click on the link below to see some of Frida’s beautiful art and more!

https://www.frida-kahlo-foundation.org/

 

Check out this mini view into various aspects of Frida’s colorful life.

Biography

 

Some great photos of Frida and Diego and more famous quotes, click this link:

https://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx/en/frida-kahlo-en/quotes/

 

If you ever get a chance to watch, I saw a fabulous movie of the life of Frida, starring Selma Hayek as Frida, and it was a fantastic accounting of Frida’s life with a parade of stars. The biographical movie was made in 2002 and was simply called Frida, although Frida was far from simple. You can check out more about the movie specs below:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120679/

 

©DGKaye2020

bitmo live laugh love

 

49 thoughts on “Frida Kahlo – The Love and Life of the Famed Mexican Artist

  1. I was just listening to a programme about Frida, strange how sometimes a name keeps popping up. It was only a few years back thatI had not heard of her at all! Truly an amazing life, most of us would probably have retired to the quiet life of an invalidafter all that.

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  2. She certainly had a varied life. Her paintings are not of my liking but I can understand your appreciation of them. A great article introducing me to someone I had never heard of, thank you for that.

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  3. I’ve always admired Frida’s vivid art. And I think her unibrow makes her distinctive although I’d do some shaving or plucking if I had that problem. Ha!

    Thanks for all the fun facts too. I did not know she appeared on the cover of Vogue once upon a time. Thanks, Debby!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed Marian. Ya, I’m not sure women bothered with things like facial hair back in the day, lol. As it turns out, her unibrow and ‘mustache’ have become part of her heritage lol 🙂

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  4. What an extraordinary woman and such a tough start in life.. not really surprising that she threw herself into life with such abandon… such talent and she was clearly born way before her time.. thanks for sharing Debby and I have added the link into the weekly round up on Saturday…♥

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    1. Thanks so much Sal. That’s exactly how I feel about Frida – born way before her time. Glad you enjoyed, and as always, grateful for your sharing Sal. Hugs ❤ xx

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  5. Go to any off the beaten path restaurant, cafe, and more in NEW Mexico and you’ll see Frida Kahlo prints (not originals, of course.). Until your post, didn’t really know MUCH about her.

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  6. What a colorful life. A good example to others to never give up. I clicked through to see more of her works–she certainly does like painting herself, and with an artistic flair that is astounding.

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  7. Dearest Debby, this was such a fascinating read on the history of this wonderful artist… And I confess I had not even heard of this artist before today, so knew nothing about her history. or famous connections…
    Learning about her endurance and her life shows us that no matter what fate befalls us if we truly follow our passion anything and everything is possible

    Many thanks for sharing … I loved learning more and will be clicking the link to find out more.. ❤

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    1. Thanks so much Sue. I’m happy to introduce you the infamous Frida Kahlo. I’ve admired her for years and have been writing to write something about her since my last vacation in Mexico – only months ago, but now feels like years. ❤ I'm glad you enjoyed learning about her. ❤ xxx

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  8. She’s such an interesting person and has fascinated generations. A powerful passionate woman that still inspires us. Thanks for sharing her history. And the quotes are wonderful. I saw the movie about her years ago and this makes me want to watch it again. I love the painting you purchased on the beach, too, Debby. A great find. 🙂

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  9. She has become an icon in recent times, and you can find her image (sometimes much more than her work) everywhere, in all kinds of objects. I wonder what she would have made of it. She was well ahead of her time in all aspects of her life, that’s for sure. I always wonder about biographical movies, because the risk of choosing well-known actors is that it is more difficult to imagine the life of the real person behind the popular actor, while unknown actors are not so distracting, but it depends on how well it is done. (I watched a movie about Trotsky’s murder, but it was mostly centred on the story of Ramón Mercader, the man who killed Trotsky, who was a Spaniard, from Barcelona).
    Thanks for all the information and the links, Debby, and for sharing your own purchases and pics. Gorgeous!

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    1. And thanks for adding to the conversation Olga. I agree with what you say about famous actors. But I have to give credit to Selma Hayek for her role, and the fact that she’s a Spanish Mexican and they made her look so like Frida, I thought she was riveting. ❤

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  10. Debby, I’m so pleased to see you writing about Frida, she is one of my most favourite artists and personalities. I love her work. ❤

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  11. I enjoyed reading your informative post about the fascinated Frida Kahlo. I’d seen her artwork pictured before, but became fascinated by her when I watched the 2002 movie of her life.

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  12. What a fascinating account of Frida and her life, Debby! Thank you for sharing all these tidbits. Talk about tumultuous experiences! I feel bad about all the pain she suffered, but appreciate how she wanted to make the most of her (love) life! Quiet the story and I’ll definitely try and watch the movie. So sad she didn’t even live to be 50! Her talent, determination, and self-esteem is something to respect. I’d love to visit Mexico City one day (like a couple of my nomad friends did, last year) to check out Casa Azul.

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    1. Hi Liesbet. No doubts you would enjoy this biopic of Frida. I too would love to make my way over to Mexico City and visit Frida’s actual home, one day when I return to Mexico. She was truly a fascinating woman and no doubts became an icon long after death. ❤

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