The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is probably one of the most iconic female artists of recent history.
Frida Kahlo’s life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home known as the Blue House. Frida gave her birth date as July 7, 1910, but her birth certificate shows July 6, 1907. Kahlo had allegedly wanted the year of her birth to coincide with the year of the beginning of the Mexican revolution so that her life would begin with the birth of modern Mexico. Frida Kahlo was of mixed German Jewish, Spanish Roman Catholic and Amerindian ethnicity and was raised in a household with 3 sisters and 2 half-sisters – a life and childhood surrounded by women.
When she was a teenager Frida suffered a terrible traffic accident, she survived but was left with life long health problems – including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder and also a metal rail piercing her uterus meaning she would never be able to bear children.
It was recovering from the injuries of this accident that Frida Kahlo began to paint the self potraits she is most famous for. She was isolated from other people during a long recovery and this isolation influenced her works, Frida Kahlo is known to have said “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
As a young artist, Kahlo communicated with the Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, whose work she admired, asking him for advice about pursuing art as a career. He recognized her talent. He encouraged her artistic development and they began an intimate relationship. They were married in 1929 but their marriage was extremely volatile and troubled.
Kahlo and Rivera both had irritable temperaments and numerous extramarital affairs. The bisexual Kahlo had affairs with both men and women, including Isamu Noguchi and Josephine Baker; Rivera knew of and tolerated her relationships with women, but her relationships with men made him jealous. For her part, Kahlo was furious when she learned that Rivera had an affair with her younger sister, Cristina. The couple divorced in November 1939, but remarried in December 1940. Their second marriage was as troubled as the first and they often lived separately but next to each other.
Frida Kahlo died on July 13, 1954, soon after turning 47. A few days before her death, she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida”.