(1907 – 1954)
On July 6, 1907, Mexican painter Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón was born. She is probably best known for her impressive self-portrait and is still admired as a feminist icon.
Frida Kahlo grew up in a small town near Mexico City, and when the Mexican revolution began, she was about three years old. As the revolution is considered as the most important social and political movement in the history of Mexico, it had great influence on the future artist. The revolution lastet about 10 years and had a critical effects on Kahlo’s childhood, since she witnessed numerous crimes and much armed violence through the years. Later on she even claimed that she was born in 1910 so people would associate her with the movements. The weak health, she suffered from during almost all of her life did not keep her from gaining a very strong personality. Kahlo became a leading member of school gangs and participated in various sport types including boxing, despite her illnesses.
In 1925, Frida Kahlo got into a serious accident, which she never really recovered from. After about 35 surgeries she was able to walk again, but suffered from pain through all of her life. This again highly influenced her personality and profession. She quit her medicine studies to start a painting career. Firstly she focused on self portraits, reflecting her loneliness during the recovery. She was later known for the numerous self portraits she completed. Her parents highly supported her, making it possible to paint and draw in bed.
In the later 1920’s, Frida Kahlo contacted Diego Rivera. She deeply admired his works and one day visited him to ask if she had talent. Rivera had no doubts of Kahlo’s painting abilities and helped her explore her own work and to improve her motivation. Rivera began frequently visiting his ‘student’ and a friendship (and later marriage) evolved. Next to Rivera, the overall Mexican culture influenced Kahlo’s works, in concerns of color and symbols. Often, she also combined her works with religious topics. Mostly Christian and Jewish elements are found in her works, often combined with surrealist effects. Probably one of the biggest achievements in her career depicted her invitation to France. The Louvre bought one of her images and she was to be the first Mexican artist of the 20th century to exhibit her work in this prominent European museum.
The general public firstly only recognized Kahlo as Rivera’s wife instead of respecting her own work. This changed a couple of years after her tragic and early death. In the 1980’s however, several exhibitions in honor of Frida Kahlo were performed. Also a movie called ‘Frida, naturaleza viva’, released in 1983 made her very well known and appreciated in the political and artistic sense.
At yovisto, you may enjoy a lecture, honoring Frida Kahlo in concerns of her overall challenging life and her famous works.
References and Further Reading:
- The official Frida Kahlo Site
- The complete works of Frida Kahlo
- Frida Kahlo & contemporary thought
- Culture, politics and identity in the paintings of Frida Kahlo
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