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.

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Related Multimedia

Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
This lecture launches the DMA's film series celebrating the Golden Age of Mexican cinema with a talk by director and film historian Sonia Fritz.
Audio files
Solis provides highlights of the Center's activities and accomplishments and announces the Elante Award recipient. Dr. Arteaga talks about the exhibition Mexico 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco and the Avant-Garde.
rescheduled Gallery talk (12/13/2000) in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Warwick is Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Education, Texas Women's University
Gallery talk by Dr. Adam Herring, Emily Rich Summers Endowed Professor of Art History, SMU
Gallery talk by Marta Torres, McDermott Graduate Intern for Visitor Engagement, DMA
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
Audio Files
Art historian, critic, and biographer Hayden Herrera talks about her book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, sharing insights into the art and life of this renowned artist whose self-portraits illustrate Kahlo's tumultuous marriage to the muralist Diego Rivera. Additionally, Herrera will discuss Kahlo's paintings that express anguish over her broken body and multiple surgeries; portraits and still-lifes that underscore both her passion for Mexico and her leftist political views; and finally the paintings that suggest the joy Frida Kahlo took in nature as revealed in her depictions of fruits, vines, roots, flowers, and animals, including her pet monkeys, dogs, cats, and parrots. Herrera's other biographies include Pulitzer Prize nominee Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work and Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Gallery talk by Jessica Harden, Director of Exhibition and Museum Design, DMA
rescheduled Gallery talk (12/13/2000) in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; Warwick is Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Education, Texas Women's University
Gallery talk by Dr. Emily Schiller, Digital Collections Content Coordinator, DMA
Explore masterpieces of Mexican modern art with Dr. Agustín Arteaga, The Eugene McDermott Director of the DMA and the organizing curator for México 1900-1950. Dr. Arteaga discusses key themes in the exhibition, which documents an artistic renaissance in Mexico through painting, sculpture, film, photography, and printmaking. 
Stunning visual works by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and José Clemente Orozco set the scene for a unique chamber music experience involving Dallas Symphony Orchestra musicians inspired by the Dallas Museum of Art's México 1900â0131950 exhibition. SOLUNA is a festival for Dallas, bringing together international artists with Dallas's finest arts organizations. Anchored by performances with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, SOLUNA celebrates Dallas's rich cultural legacy and diversity of expression.
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University
All DMA Members are invited to an exclusive opportunity to hear Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), talk about the exhibition México 1900-1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde.
¿Por qué el mundo de la moda ha estado obsesionado con Frida Kahlo durante décadas? Conocida tanto por su estilo, como por su arte, la artista sigue siendo una de las mujeres más emblemáticas del siglo pasado. En Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being periodista y autora Susana Martínez Vidal examina la cautivante estética de Kahlo y su influencia en el arte y la moda. En esta charla, Vidal compartirá veinte lecciones de moda y vida que Frida Kahlo nos dejó.
Why has the ever-changing world of fashion been obsessed with Frida Kahlo for decades? Known as much for her style as for her art, the artist has remained one of the most iconic women of the last century. In Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, journalist and author Susana Martínez Vidal examines Kahloâ019s captivating aesthetic and her influence on art and fashion. Vidal shares twenty fashion and life lessons that Frida Kahlo left us.
While Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognizable artists of the Mexican School. A number of women made their mark on the Mexican art scene of the early 20th century, and they continue to inform generations of women artists. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, will lead a conversation about the work of women Mexican modernists, both famous and lesser known, and their legacy in contemporary art. Panelists include: Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Director of the DePaul Art Museum; Adriana Zavala, Associate Professor of Art History, Tufts University; and Minerva Cuevas, artist.
Symposium in conjunction with Modern Masters of Mexico: The Gelman Collection (Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera), October 8, 2000-January 28, 2001; "The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection: Focusing on Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo", Dr. Salmon Grimberg, independent art historian; "Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Their Art and Their Life", Ruth Alvarado Rivera, independent curator and granddaughter of Diego Rivera; "Orozco and Siquieros: Art and Ideology", Gregorio Luke, Executive Director, Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles; "Enigmas and Variations: Portraits and Self-Portraits in the Gelman Collection", Dr. Edward Sullivan, Professor of Art History, New York University

Fun Facts

  • Frida Kahlo was portrayed by Ofelia Medina in Frida: naturaleza viva (1983), Corina Katt Ayala in Cradle Will Rock (1999), Salma Hayek in the biopic Frida (2002), and by Cristina Velasco Lozano in Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015).

Web Resources

  • Biography
    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.

  • Christie's
    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.