Frida Kahlo was a famous Mexican painter renowned for her self-portraits and other works inspired by Mexican culture, making her an icon to the Mexican people. In addition, she was an activist, using a naive folk art style to tackle social issues such as class, gender, race, and sexuality in Mexican society.

Kahlo typically painted her experiences. Her paintings typically featured solid autobiographical elements that described the world through her eyes and its impact on her. So dedicated was she to documenting her experiences in paint that she never shied away from illustrating her pain and struggles. Images such as these give additional insight into her enigmatic persona.

Kahlo’s successful career spanned almost three decades. She developed an interest in art and continued painting even in her final, ailing years. Several of her works are housed in prestigious museums across Mexico and the United States. Her catalog is estimated to hold an impressive 200 paintings. This article examines her life and some of her most celebrated works.

Artwork by Frida Kahlo

Kahlo (July 6, 1907) was born in Mexico and was the 3rd daughter of a German father and Mexican mother. The family lived in a blue house located in Coyoacán, a residential area south of Mexico City. The family house is now known as La Casa Azul or Frida Kahlo Museum.

Kahlo suffered polio at the age of 6, which left her with a slight limp. Also, Kahlo suffered another tragedy in 1922 when she was involved in an accident that left her bedridden with severe injuries and lifelong medical complications.

On the bright side, Kahlo picked up paintings on her recovery bed, and by the time she was fully recovered, she had several paintings to her name, mostly depicting herself, her family, and friends.

A famous muralist called Diego Rivera noticed her works, and a year later, in 1929, the two were married. The couple spent the initial years of their marriage shuttling between Mexico and the United States, providing Kahlo the opportunity to develop her artistic style. They were divorced in 1939 but later remarried in 1940.

Career

Kahlo’s main inspiration was Mexican folk culture. As her art evolved, she focused more on her Mexican heritage and personal life. Her works reflected elements of native Mexican beliefs, and she began wearing her signature Tehuana attire.

Because her paintings often reflected elements of surrealism, they attracted Surrealist artist André Breton. In 1938, he arranged Kahlo’s hugely successful first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. Following the success of the first exhibition, Breton organized another in France the following year, but it turned out less successful. Nonetheless, the Musée du Louvre purchased Kahlo’s The Frame, making her the first Mexican artist to feature in the Museum.

In the following decade, Kahlo showcased her work in exhibitions in Mexico and USA. She also worked as an art teacher at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura and Escultura y Grabado. In the same decade, her frail health began to worsen. Nonetheless, she held her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953. The following year, she died at 47.

Kahlo’s reputation skyrocketed posthumously around the 1970s, and to this day, she remains an icon in the world of arts, even having a biographical movie in her name. Here is a list of drawings by Frida Kahlo:

The Two Fridas

This painting was created in 1939, shortly after her divorce from Diego Rivera. The double self-portrait depicts two versions of the artist, often seen as split personalities. Both Fridas sit side by side, holding hands, identical except for their clothing.

The Frida on the left is depicted in a white Victorian dress, while the other Frida wears a native Tehuana dress. Their chests are exposed to reveal hearts connected by a single artery.

According to Kahlo, the painting was inspired by a childhood imaginary friend, although she later admitted that her loneliness inspired it after leaving Rivera. It resides at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico.

Viva La Vida (Watermelons)

This 1954 painting is the last Kahlo ever painted. Created a few days before her death, it marked a vibrant and lighthearted exit for the artist.

The painting depicts colorful watermelons, whole, halved, sliced, and carved. The artist inscribed the painting’s title on the middle watermelon wedge, which translates to “long life” in English. This is another point often sighted by those who believe the artist was aware of her imminent demise and the significance of watermelons to the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Mexico.

Interestingly, when Kahlo’s widower was nearing death, he released his commemorative watermelon painting three years later. Viva La Vida is currently housed at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.

Henry Ford Hospital

This 1932 oil painting details a harrowing experience the artist had to go through. It was painted after her miscarriage at the Henry Ford Hospital.

She depicts her nude body hemorrhaging on a hospital bed with six objects floating in the Frida Kahlo self portrait. The objects, including a male fetus and an orchid reminiscent of a womb, are connected by three red ribbons or umbilical cords, which Kahlo holds together against her belly.

The inclusion of a human pelvis among the floating objects in the painting may allude to the pelvic injury Kahlo suffered as a teenager. Perhaps the injury contributed to her miscarriage. The painting is currently at The Dolores Olmedo Museum, Mexico.

Conclusion

Kahlo is an icon in the world of art for a good reason. With her compelling works, which tell many tales, the artist has amassed an impressive following even in death. She is arguably Mexico’s most decorated artist, a frontline among female artists throughout history, and a true art master. The approximately 200 masterpieces she left behind bear witness to her mastery of the art.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.