The mysterious story of Frida Kahlo. Her paintings have a distinctive one-of-a-kind style. Her unibrow has become iconic. If you’ve seen her once, you’ll never confuse her with anyone else.
Frida Kahlo was an extremely strong woman whose brilliant works of art were inspired by her own life-long challenges and suffering. It seems like there was a veil of mystery around Frida ever since she was born.
Even though her birth year was 1907, she changed it to 1910. And, she didn’t do it to be 3 years younger, but to have a connection to the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910 and lasted up until 1920.
That national revolution, also known as the Mexican Civil War, has greatly affected the government and culture of Frida’s beloved country, and has brought important reforms. Her mother, Matilde Calderón, came from Oaxaca, Mexico, and her father Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo was of Hungarian-German descent. Frida had three sisters.
Why Frida’s peers mocked her?
As a girl, she never had good health. At the age of 6, she was diagnosed with poliomyelitis. As a result of this infectious disease, Frida walked with a limp her entire life, and her legs were disproportionate – the right one was a little thinner than the left one. She tried to hide this defect by wearing long skirts but it still didn’t save her from the mockery of her peers.
Despite this, her solid character pushed her to be a good student and a creative personality.
How Frida became one of the leaders of the Cachuchas?
It may have been the health problems that inspired Frida to become a doctor. She entered the best high school in Mexico called La Prepatoria in Mexico City. There were just 35 girls and 1,965 boys at that school.
Unlike her former classmates, students at La Prepatoria were creative and active like Frida, so she made some loyal friends. They called themselves the Cachuchas, after the caps they all wore, and took part in political debates and organized pranks. Frida, famous for her bursting energy, was one of the leaders of the group.
At the age of 18, the future artist got into a terrible accident: she was traveling by bus, and a streetcar crashed into it. She broke her collarbone, two ribs, and her leg, crushed her foot and her shoulder was dislocated. But probably the most painful were the injuries to her spine and pelvis that broke in three places. Her injuries were so extensive, the doctors didn’t think she would survive.
The first Frida’s painting
But, a strong spirit like Frida couldn’t be crushed. She was unconscious for several weeks, and when she woke up, she immediately asked her father to buy her art supplies. He was the person who designed a special stand for her so she could draw lying down and also put a huge mirror right above her.
The first painting she drew after the accident was The Bus. She drew it with a pencil. She said many times that drawing gave her life power and it was the thing, along with her relatives, that helped her recover.
The second accident was… Diego Rivera
Unfortunately, if you think she only suffered physical pain, you’d be wrong. Frida herself said: “There were 2 accidents in my life: one when a bus hit a tram, and the second was Diego.” She met Diego Rivera several years after the accident. Frida had just started drawing and decided to show her work to a respectable and experienced artist. He thought her work was very good, and something clicked between them. The couple got married in 1929. She was 22 and he was 43. He was not the most handsome man, quite plump, but extremely charming.
The extravagant couple had a nickname: “The Elephant and the Dove”. Diego was never a good husband. 2 of his previous marriages ended because he cheated.
Affair with Leon Trotsky
His third marriage was not a happy exception. Frida was aware of her husband’s numerous love affairs but she didn’t confront him. Maybe it was revenge when she had an affair with a revolutionary named Leon Trotsky who found shelter in their house. According to some, she also had affairs with the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas.
Why Frida sunk into depression
Frida became pregnant several times but all of her pregnancies ended with miscarriages because of that same unfortunate accident. Even after doctors recommended bed rest, Frida still couldn’t give birth to a healthy child, and she sunk into depression.
She expressed all of her emotions on her canvases. Her brightest work reflecting this incredibly painful topic was Henry Ford Hospital, which she created after her miscarriage in Detroit in 1932. Diego tried to cheer up his wife by bringing her tin panels and painting materials.
rida painted herself in a twisted body position to express the pain she was going through. The red ribbons stand for umbilical cords. There is a male fetus floating above her and a snail to show how slow the operation was. The pink orthopedic cast of the pelvic zone and a pelvic bone are reminders of the bus accident that caused Frida to paint throughout her life. The orchid under the bed is shaped like a uterus, and was a gift from Diego.
Her iconic paintings
In 1939, after a painful divorce with her husband, Frida Kahlo created her iconic self-portrait “The Two Fridas”. It shows the two different sides of her character, connected by a vein and holding hands.
The Frida on the left is heart-broken and has scissors in her hand ready to cut the vein. The other Frida has a full heart and is holding a portrait of her beloved Diego. One year later, she painted another iconic “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird”. Despite the necklace causing her to bleed, Frida is wearing it with dignity.
The artist created a total of 55 self-portraits, most of them were of herself surrounded by animals. She loved animals and had dogs, monkeys, parrots, and pigeons as pets. Frida valued her self-portraits a lot because many of them were an expression of her difficult life. In 1940, Frida had very serious health problems and was admitted to a hospital. Diego came to her right away and proposed to her again, and she accepted his proposal.
What were the last days of Frida
With every year passing, Frida’s condition only got worse. She had several serious surgeries, but her condition didn’t improve.
In 1953, her leg had to be amputated because of gangrene. The same year, she had a personal exhibition in Mexico which she attended on her bed. She felt that she would die soon, so she wrote in her diary, “I hope the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return.”
Frida Kahlo finished her last work 8 days before her death. It was very inspiring and bright, seemingly simple in composition but complex when it comes to emotions. It was originally called Watermelons, but became well-known by the quote carved on one of the watermelons – Viva La Vida. That translates as Long Live Life.
The artist died of pneumonia in 1954 at the same house she was born in. In 1955, the house where Frida lived was turned into a museum, and her fans from around the world still visit it. In her lifetime full of pain and struggle, the Mexican artist completed more than 150 paintings. Her art has inspired other forms of creativity.
For example, her iconic The Broken Column actually inspired Jean-Paul Gaultier to create the costume for Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element. Movies have been made about her, including the wonderful film Frida with Salma Hayek as the leading role. She’s inspired books and even music has been composed in her honor. The legacy of this diverse personality and incredibly strong woman still lives on today.
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Credit: Bright Side