Frida Kahlo: Bedridden Painter of Revolution

By Jesse Maes|March 18, 2014Student Writing|

Many of us have heard the name Frida Kahlo, and even more of us have heard of Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican painter. Kahlo began her life in 1907 in Mexico City, although she gave her birth date as July 7th, 1910 to coincide with the starting date of the Mexican Revolution. Frida pursued work in the field of medicine, but after a horrific bus-trolley accident that left her severely injured, she abandoned the career.

She was wounded to the point of compromising reproductive capacity and even broke her spinal column, preventing her from walking. She spent three months in a full body cast after thirty-five operations as well as extreme pain. Despite this, she began painting portraits of herself. As she was the only live subject around, she had a mirror so she could paint her reflection.

Diego Rivera, famed painter and artist, met her in 1927 after she regained her ability to walk. He was painting a mural when she showed him four of her paintings and asked him if he thought she was gifted in art. Told that she had talent, Frida often had Rivera over as a welcomed guest. Kahlo painted a total of 140 pieces, with 55 of them being self-portraits.

Kahlo’s marriage to Diego Rivera in 1929 marked the beginning of a turbulent period; their troubled marriage was fraught with extramarital affairs and anger that led to their divorce in 1939. They remarried in 1940, only to experience the same problems again.

Kahlo’s paintings often were depictions of blended culture, bringing Spanish, indigenous Mexican, and often Christian and Jewish themes together in bright colors consistent with that of traditional Mexican art. Often she was referred to as “surrealist” and a painter of “folk art”.

Frida Kahlo suffered extreme pain her entire life after the accident, and on July 13th, 1954 she died, only 47 years of age. She experienced gangrene, pulmonary embolism, and bronchopneumonia before her death.

Sadly, her talent was not fully recognized until decades after her death. During the 1970s and ’80s she gained recognition during the Age of Neomexicanismo. Now she has a museum dedicated to her life and paintings, as well as a permanent place in history as one of the most honest and uncompromising feminist figures in the 20th century.

Her works inspire and have inspired countless artists and continues to be celebrated for its unique style and composition. The mix of traditional with surrealist and folk brings out what she really meant while painting. Many of her self-portraits are of the different conditions and pains that she suffered. She painted herself as she really was, without attempts to enhance her appearance.

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