Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who gained great popularity internationally. She was married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and in her lifetime was most often recognized as Rivera’s wife. Her own talent wasn’t widely recognized until many years after her death. Some call her Mexico’s greatest artist.
Frida Kahlo led a life that was as glamorous as it was tragic. She was born in Mexico City on July 6, 1907, the third of four daughters. At the age of six, she was stricken with polio, and although she recovered, her right leg permanently appeared thinner than her left leg. In school, she was a mischievous tomboy and troublemaker that enjoyed playing pranks on teachers.
At the age of 18, Frida was seriously injured in a bus accident, and was not expected to live. She had multiple injuries and spent months in a plaster body cast. Eventually she regained the ability to walk but often suffered tremendous pain.
Up until the accident, her dream was to become a doctor, but the accident shattered those dreams. The accident also left her unable to bear children. While bedridden, Frida began to paint lying in bed with a special easel. She never studied at any type of design school, but she studied the works of the Italian Renaissance. Her favorite subject to paint was herself, and each painting captures a moment in her life. Her art is filled with images, sometimes shocking, of impairment and physical pain. She is quoted as saying “I paint because I need to.” More than half of her paintings are self-portraits.
Next to her physical difficulties, Frida’s next greatest challenge was her marriage to Diego Rivera. He was twenty years older than she was, and there was infidelity on both sides. Yet the union survived the turbulence, infidelities, and Frida’s poor health. The couple divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1940. Frida was quoted as saying “There were two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego.”
She was a committed member of the Communist party. She had a brief affair with Leon Trotsky after he was ousted by Stalin
During her life, she had over thirty operations and in 1950 lost her right leg to gangrene. She turned to alcohol and drugs to ease her suffering. She died at the age of 47. The cause of death was listed as a pulmonary embolism, but many speculate that it was suicide.
In death, Frida Kahlo has been the subject of books, articles, documentaries, and a feature film. Her work has inspired over 65,000 websites, numerous exhibits, and her face has appeared on a U.S. 34-cent stamp. She inspires many women to express themselves and pursue their dreams.