Art for the Ages

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954), photo by Guillermo Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (born on July 6, 1907 as Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón) was born of a German artist father and a Mexican mother. Her home town was in Coyoacán, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her family home was known as La Casa Azul (the Blue House), and is the current site of the Frida Kahlo Museum. Frida died on July 13, 1954 in Mexico.

During her childhood, Frida contracted polio at the age of six, which left her with a shortened right leg and a permanent limp. Frida was encouraged to draw by a close friend of her father, Guillermo, who was himself a successful photographer. She enjoyed drawing, but her main interest was in science and she wanted to become a doctor. This interest led her to enroll in the elite National Preparatory School in Mexico City, an hour’s drive from her hometown. There she met Alejandro Gomez Arias, with whom she fell in love.

On September 17, 2025, Frida and Alejandro were riding together on a crowded bus to Coyoacán when the bus collided with a trolley car, causing many fatalities and serious injuries. Arias escaped with minor injuries, but Frida suffered grave injuries to her abdomen, spine, collarbone and leg. She had to withdraw from school, as she was confined to a hospital bed for several months of multiple surgeries, pain and discomfort, and resulting loneliness. During her long convalescence, Frida was never visited by Arias, which contributed emotional pain to her physical travails. It resulted in their breakup.

While being confined to a hospital bed, Kahlo had an easel installed and an overhead mirror attached to the bed’s canopy. There, she passed the quiet hours painting self-portraits that expressed her pain and grief openly and without fear. She abandoned any notion of becoming a physician, and instead changed direction to become an artist. When asked about her paintings, she replied that she painted herself because she was usually alone, and because she was the subject she knew best.

As she recovered from her injuries, Frida met Diego Rivera, an established muralist. They entered into a romantic relationship, which led to them marrying one year later. It was to become a tumultuous marriage, marred by years of extra-marital affairs by both partners, a subsequent divorce and reconciliation. Frida often expressed her emotional pain, anger and sadness in her paintings, often resorting to the use of cultural folk symbols from her Mexican heritage, which she loved so well.

Frida’s work is known for its blatent self-reflection, honesty and sometimes crude and even brutal analogies. Her artistic journey was influenced not only by tragedy, deception and betrayal, but also by inspiration, courage and honesty in the face of immense challenge. During a historical time when women were largely relegated to social invisibility, Frida was revolutionary in her approach to self-expression. The paintings that resulted did not achieve wide-spread acclaim and attention until the 1970’s through the 1990’s, when social unrest led to the rise of feminisim. She then became a social icon in the eyes of the public, in America, Europe and Mexico.

*Thanks to Wikipedia for much of the information contained above!
Return to Home Page