Artists & Designers
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)
Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón Kahlo, in Coyoacán, Mexico City on July 6, 1907. She grew up in the family home where she was born, later referred to as the Blue House or Casa Azul. Her father was a German photographer who had immigrated to Mexico where he met and married her mother. She contracted polio around age six, which caused a permanent limp. In 1922, Kahlo enrolled at the renowned National Preparatory School, where she first met Mexican muralist Diego Rivera who went on to work on a mural project at the school. After a bus accident in 1925 left her seriously disabled, she began to paint while recovering in bed. Her injuries left her unable to bear a child, and she underwent thirty-two operations throughout her life; her pain and suffering are common themes addressed in her art.
Kahlo became more politically active and joined the Young Communist League and the Mexican Communist Party. Kahlo reconnected with Diego Rivera in 1928, and later married him in 1929. He greatly influenced her art with support and enthusiasm, and she often moved with Rivera following his commissions. In 1930, Kahlo showed her painting Frieda and Diego Rivera at the Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. The two 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. They were divorced in 1939, but remarried in 1940.
During her career, the painter developed a very particular means of expressing Mexican traditions and her experience as a woman of the time. Known for multiplying her image in self-portraits, Kahlo employed an interesting use of color. Although French writer and founder of surrealism, André Breton, interpreted her work as surrealist, she never identified with that movement. Despite her relationship with Diego Rivera, she maintained a unique, personal visual language and opened an alternative route for the visual representation of women in the 20th century. Kahlo broke from the traditional genre of still-life painting, renaming it naturaleza viva (live nature). Toward the end of her life, Kahlo redirected her passion to capturing everyday existence. She also explored the potential of fruits as a symbol of fertility and combined them with national elements such as flags, pots, and animals.
In the last years of her life, Kahlo’s health rapidly declined; she had bone graft surgery on her spine in 1950 and her lower right leg was amputated due to gangrene in 1953. After being discharged, she was mostly confined to La Casa Azul and to using a wheelchair and crutches. Photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo staged her first solo exhibition in Mexico at the Galería Arte Contemporaneo in April 1953. Though she was ordered on bed rest, she had her bed to moved from her home to the gallery so she could attend. The same year, five of her paintings were also included in an exhibition on Mexican art at the Tate Gallery in London. Kahlo died on July 13, 1954 in Coyoacán, Mexico City at the age of 47. Her ashes are housed at La Casa Azul, which was opened as a museum in 1958. Frida Kahlo gained widespread international recognition beginning in the 1980s.
- México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant Garde, Gallery text [Frida Kahlo; Still Lives In Motion; Art Patrons; The Two Fridas], 2017.
- "Kahlo, Frida." Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 06, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T045455.
- "Frida Kahlo." Latin American Art, accessed March 06, 2018, https://www.latinamericanart.com/en/artists/frida-kahlo/biography.html.
Learn more about Frida Kahlo, and explore links to other famous artists in her circle.
- New York Times
Read an article about Marcel Sternberger’s portraits of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and his ability to deeply delve into the emotions and thoughts of his subjects.
- Huffington Post
Read and article and watch a video about the DMA's attempt to break a world record for 1,000 Frida Kahlo look-alikes.
PBS America~ Watch a 2012 video produced by PBS about the life and times of Frida Kahlo.
Watch a 2016 video tour of the Museo Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's home in Coyoacán, the Casa Azul (Blue House).
Google Arts & Culture
Watch a 2016 video from the series "Kids Explain Art to Experts," which includes an interpretation of Kahlo's self portrait.
The Art Assignment (PBS)
Watch a 2017 video produced by PBS exploring the recipes of artist Frida Kahlo, whose work celebrated Mexico's history, vivid colors, and it's food.
- Canal 22
Watch a 2015 video in Spanish produced by Canal 22 Mexico City, and learn more about the life and art of Kahlo.
- Canal 22
Watch a 2015 video in Spanish produced by Canal 22 Mexico City, and learn more about the mass obsession with the artist and "Fridamania (Fridomanía)".
- Khan Academy
Read more about Kahlo's The Two Fridas (Las dos Fridas).
- Khan Academy
Watch a video about Frida Kahlo's Frieda and Diego Rivera with Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker.
- Khan Academy
View a video about art and identity and explore how artists like Frida Kahlo, Glenn Ligon, and Andy Warhol investigate and express ideas about identity in their work.