Famous works: Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, The Two Fridas, Memory, the Heart, Henry Ford Hospital
Childhood and Early Life
Frida Kahlo grew up in the village of Coyoacan on the outskirts of Mexico City. She spent much of her life living in her family home called La Casa Azul (The Blue House). Today, her blue home has been transformed into the Frida Kahlo Museum. Frida's mother, Matilde, was a native Mexican and her father, Guillermo, was a German immigrant. She had three sisters and two half-sisters.
Much of Frida's life was filled with pain and suffering. This pain is often the central theme in her paintings. When Frida was six years old, she got the disease Polio and became disabled. Despite her disability, Frida worked hard in school and eventually was accepted to the National Preparatory School. This was a big deal and Frida hoped to become a doctor.
While still attending school, Frida was in a horrible bus accident. She was severely injured. For the rest of her life, Frida would live in pain from her accident. Her dreams of becoming a doctor came to an end and Frida returned home from school to recover.
Early Art Career
Frida enjoyed art from an early age, but she had very little formal art education. Her father was a photographer and she gained some appreciation for light and perspective from him.
Frida had never really considered art as a career until after the bus accident. During her recovery, Frida turned to art for something to do. She soon discovered art as a way to express her emotions and her views of the world around her.
Most of Frida's early paintings were self-portraits or paintings of her sisters and friends. A few years after her accident, Frida met her future husband, artist Diego Rivera. Frida and Diego moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico and then San Francisco, California. Frida's artistic style was influenced by both her relationship with Diego as well as her life in these new surroundings.
Influences, Style, and Common Themes
Frida Kahlo's art is often described or categorized as Surrealist. Surrealism is an art movement that tries to capture the "subconscious mind." Frida said that this wasn't the case with her art. She said she wasn't painting her dreams, she was painting her real life.
Frida's artistic style was influenced by Mexican portrait artists and Mexican folk art. She used bold and vibrant colors and many of her paintings were small in size. Most of her paintings were portraits.
Many of Frida Kahlo's paintings depict experiences of her life. Some express the pain she felt from her injuries as well as her rocky relationship with her husband Diego.
Frida with her husband Diego Rivera Photo by Carl Van Vechten
Although Frida had some success as an artist during her lifetime, she was not internationally famous. It wasn't until the late 1970s that her artwork was rediscovered by art historians. Since that time, Frida has become so famous that the term "Fridamania" has been used to describe her popularity.
Interesting Facts About Frida Kahlo
Her full name is Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon.
In 1984, Mexico declared the works of Frida Kahlo part of the country's national cultural heritage.
Her painting The Frame was the first painting by a Mexican artist acquired by the Louvre.
Her paintings often featured aspects of Aztec Mythology and Mexican folklore.
The major motion picture Frida told the story of her life and earned 6 Academy Award nominations.