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Who is Frida Kahlo?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 23, 2024
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The artist Frida Kahlo was born on 6 July 1907. Her home in Mexico City was a house known as the Blue House. At the age of six, Kahlo was struck down with polio. This caused her right leg to appear much thinner than her left for the rest of her life. Later, she would be struck with a much more serious disability.

The young Frida Kahlo was described as a tomboy. At high school, she became the ringleader of a gang comprised mainly of boys, who continuously caused trouble. It was also at the National Preparatory High School that she met her future husband. Diego Rivera was a famous Mexican muralist who was painting the school’s auditorium when they met.

At the age of 18, Frida Kahlo was riding a bus when she had a near fatal accident. The bus crash left her with a broken collarbone, spinal column, ribs and pelvis. Kahlo was forced to stay flat in bed for a month, encased in plaster and enclosed in a box like structure.

Kahlo made a remarkable recovery and began painting due to the boredom of lying in bed. Although she had made a miraculous recovery, she was plagued with pain for the rest of her life. In her lifetime, Frida Kahlo had around thirty operations and would often rely on alcohol and drugs to ease her pain.

Frida Kahlo married Diego Rivera in 1929. It was the start of a turbulent relationship. Rivera was much older than Kahlo and had many affairs. They divorced in 1940, but the divorce lasted only one year. Although it seemed to be a love-hate relationship, Rivera helped Kahlo with her painting and she was the love of his life.

Frida Kahlo’s paintings are full of passion. She threw all of her emotional turmoil onto the canvas. Her anger over her marriage, her many miscarriages and the pain she felt from her accident were all themes for her art. She soon gained recognition for her work the world over.

Diego Rivera was not the only one to have affairs. Throughout her life, Kahlo would have affairs with many men, including the Communist leader Leon Trotsky. When Trotsky was murdered, the police held both Rivera and Kahlo under suspicion. Both were released, but for years Kahlo delighted in telling stories of how she invited Trotsky to Mexico to be murdered.

Frida Kahlo held her one and only Mexican exhibition in 1953. Her health at the time was not good and she had to be carried into the exhibition on a stretcher. Photographers, reporters and crowds of admirers mobbed her. Kahlo spent the night entertaining the crowd and the exhibition was a huge success. A year later, Kahlo had to have her right leg amputated due to a gangrene infection.

Due to the amputation, Frida Kahlo attempted suicide more than once. She died in 1954 in the Blue House where she was born. Suicide was rumored, but no official autopsy was performed. Frida Kahlo is now recognized as one of the world’s most talented artists and her work is hung in galleries all over the world.

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