Frida Kahlo is one of the most popular artists in the world. Her life and paintings tell an extraordinary story about resilience and creativity.
She was born in 1907 on the 6th of July in the Casa Azul at Coyoacan, Mexico City. Her parents were Matilde Calderón Gonzáles, a Oaxaca born mestiza, and Guillermo Kahlo Kauffmann a German photographer. She had two half sisters from her father’s first marriage, Maria Luisa and Margarita, two older sisters, Matilda and Adriana, and a younger sister, Cristina. At 6 years of age, Frida fell ill with polio resulting in bed rest and, consequently, her seclusion. The disease leaves her with a right leg that is thinner than her left leg as a permanent condition.
Years later, in 1922, she met muralist Diego Rivera, who was at that time the most famous artist in Mexico. They met briefly while he was painting a mural at the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, where she was a student at the time. Some years later she would seek him out in order to show him her paintings and they began a relationship.
At the age of 18, a traffic accident injured her for life, when the bus in which she was traveling collided with a tram. As a result of the collision, Frida almost lost her life; she suffered pelvic and spinal fractures, among other serious injuries. Forced to spend months on bed rest, her mother, Matilde, commissioned a special bed with an easel and a mirror attached to it, allowing Frida to continue painting while bedridden. At the age of 22, she married Diego Rivera, who was twenty-one years her senior. Although Frida would have other love affairs, Diego would undoubtedly be the love of her life, and as for Diego she would be the same.
From 1929 to 1933 the couple resided in the United States, where Diego Rivera is commissioned to paint a series of murals in San Francisco, New York and Detroit. While he works, Frida spends her time painting. These are years of many tensions for the couple: Frida misses Mexico, but Diego is reluctant to return, even after Frida has a miscarriage. In 1938, Frida had her first exhibition in New York, showcasing twenty-five of her paintings at the Julien Levy Gallery, of which she sold twelve. From there on, her career continues with success and in 1939 she travels to Paris after an invitation from André Breton. He exhibits her works at the Mexique exhibition, organized by Marcel Duchamp, where she meets artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vasili Kandisky, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Yves Tanguy. In 1939 Frida and Diego Rivera got divorced. She decides to become economically independent and begins a new period of creation, which is reflected in a clear evolution of her work. A year later they reconciled and remarried in San Francisco.
On 1946, Frida underwent one of the toughest spinal surgeries of her life, from which she never recovered. Over the course of three decades, and as a result of the bus accident, Frida underwent more than thirty-two surgeries, the use of multiple orthopedic corsets and the amputation of a leg.
In 1953 Frida had her first and only solo exhibition in Mexico during her lifetime. It opened on April 13, at the Lola Alvarez Bravo Contemporary Art Gallery in Mexico City. Although her doctors did not give her permission to attend, she went to the opening anyway. She appeared in her bed and was placed in the center of the gallery, from where she received attendees such as Concha Michel, Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), Andrés Henestrosa, Antonio Peláez, Roberto Garza Garza, Carmen Farrell, among others.
A YEAR AFTER HER EXHIBITION, FRIDA DIED OF A PULMONARY EMBOLISM IN THE SAME HOUSE WHERE SHE WAS BORN.
Frida managed to overcome the difficult moments she faced by blending her strength and creativity. Her paintings are the most clear expression of her resilient existence.
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