Mexico, 1907 - 1954
Frida Kahlo was born in Coyocoán, Mexico on July 6, 1907. Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Frida Kahlo began painting after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón Kahlo grew up in the family’s home where she was born—later referred as the Blue House or Casa Azul. Her father, Wilhelm (also called Guillermo), was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother Matilde. She had two older sisters, Matilde and Adriana, and her younger sister, Cristina, was born the year after Frida. Around the age of 6, she contracted polio, which caused her to be bedridden for nine months. While she did recover from the illness, she limped when she walked because the disease had damaged her right leg and foot. Her father encouraged her to play soccer, go swimming, and even wrestle—highly unusual moves for a girl at the time—to help aid in her recovery. In 1922, Kahlo enrolled at the renowned National Preparatory School. She was one of the few female students to attend the school, and she became known for her jovial spirit and her love of traditional and colorful clothes and jewelry. That same year, famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera went to work on a project at the school. Kahlo often watched as Rivera created a mural called The Creation in the school’s lecture hall. According to some reports, she told a friend that she would someday have Rivera’s baby. While at school, Kahlo hung out with a group of politically and intellectually like-minded students. She became romantically involved with one of them, Alejandro Gómez Arias. On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and Gómez Arias were traveling together on a bus when the vehicle collided with a streetcar. As a result of the collision, Kahlo was impaled by a steel handrail, which went into her hip and came out the other side. She suffered several serious injuries as a result, including fractures in her spine and pelvis. After staying at the Red Cross Hospital in Mexico City for several weeks, Kahlo returned home to recuperate further. She began painting during her recovery and finished her first self-portrait the following year, which she gave to Gómez Arias. Becoming more politically active, Kahlo joined the Young Communist League and the Mexican Communist Party. Kahlo reconnected with Rivera in 1928. He encouraged her artwork, and the two began a relationship. In 1929, the couple got married. The two were divorced and then later remarried. Much has been written about their stormy relationship. It is enough to say here that Rivera was clearly a pivotal force in Frida's life and she in his. During their early years together, Kahlo often followed Rivera moved around a lot based on where the commissions that Rivera received were. In 1930, they lived in San Francisco, California, where Kahlo showed her painting Frieda and Diego Rivera at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. They then went to New York City for Rivera’s show at the Museum of Modern Art and later moved to Detroit for Rivera’s commission with the Detroit Institute of Arts. Frida Kahlo died in 1954 at the age of 47 and is remembered as one of the most important Latin American artists in modern art.
Artworks by Frida Kahlo
The Detroit Institute of Arts – Detroit, Michigan