Frida Kahlo in mural by Susan Greene

Photo: Scott Braley

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who was born on July 6, 1907. Frida claimed to be born on 1910, the year of the outbreak of the Mexican revolution, because she wanted her life to begin together with the modern Mexico. She was one of the most influential Mexican painters of the mid 20th century.

On the afternoon of September 17, 1925, Frida and her friend Alex were involved in a severe Bus vs Streetcar crash, and Frida was injured very severely.  A metal rod had made a very deep abdominal wound, and her third and fourth lumbar vertebrae were fractured. Frida received many more wounds too, and ended up trapped in a body cast for months. While Frida was confined to her bed, her mother brought her a small lap easel, and Frida started to paint.  She had studied art before, at the National Preparatory School, where she had met Diego Rivera when he was painting the Creation Mural, but Frida had never worked on paintings before.  Over her bed, Frida had a mirror so she could see herself, and this was the beginning of her focus on self portraits. From 1926 until her death, the Mexican painter created striking, often shocking, images that reflected her turbulent life.

Through Tina Modotti, Frida met Diego again and then fell in love. Although he was 20 years her senior, they were married in August of 1929; this stormy, passionate relationship survived infidelities, the pressures of Rivera's career, a divorce and remarriage, and Kahlo's poor health. The couple traveled to the United States and France, where Kahlo met luminaries from the worlds of art and politics.

Kahlo died July 13, 1954 of pulmonary embolism. Kahlo enjoyed considerable success during the 1940s, but her reputation soared posthumously, beginning in the 1980s with the publication of numerous books about her work by feminist art historians and others. In the last two decades an explosion of Kahlo-inspired films, plays, calendars, and jewelry has transformed the artist into a veritable cult figure.

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