• Bio & Frida cult

A short biography

Frida Kahlo's life in brief

Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderónon on July 6, 1907 in the house of her parents, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacan. Kahlo's mother, Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez, was of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry, while his father Guillermo Kahlo Kauffmann was German of Hungarian descent.

Frida always claimed to be born on 1910, the year of the outbreak of the Mexican revolution, so that people could directly associate her with the modern Mexico.

This detail well introduces us to a singular personality, characterized since her childhood by a deep sense of independence and rebellion against ordinary social and moral habits, moved by passion and sensuality, proud of her "Mexicanidad" and cultural tradition set against the reigning Americanization: everything mixed with a peculiar sense of humour.

Her life was marked by physical suffering, started with the polio contracted at the age of five and worsen by her life-dominating event occurred in 1925. A bus accident caused severe injuries to her body owing to a pole that pierced her from the stomach to the pelvis. The medicine of her time tortured her body with surgical operations (32 throughout her life), corsets of different kinds and mechanical "stretching" systems.

Lots of her works were painted laying in the bed. Drawing on personal experiences, her miscarriages, and her numerous operations, Kahlo's works are often characterized by portrayals of pain. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds.

As a young artist, Kahlo approached the famous Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, who recognized her talent and her unique expression as truly special and uniquely Mexican. He encouraged her development as an artist and soon began an intimate relationship with Frida. They were married in 1929, despite the disapproval of Frida's mother, divorced and then remarried in 1940.

Their union was not an usual one ... Diego's several affairs, including one with Frida's sister Cristina, upset her. In response to this betrayal from her family, Kahlo shaved off the majority of her signature long dark hair.

On the other hand, she had also a lot of lovers, men and women, such as Leon Trotsky and André Breton's wife....

She was desperate to have a child and was heartbroken when she experienced a second miscarriage in 1934. Indeed she had several miscarriages and at least three therapeutic abortions throughout her life.

In 1930, Frida and Diego lived in San Francisco, California. Then they moved to New York City for Rivera's artwork show at the Museum of Modern Art. They stayed olso in Detroit while Diego Rivera worked for Detroit Institute of Arts. In 1933 the couple had to move back to Mexico when Rivera tried to include the communist leader Vladimir Lenin in a mural commissioned by Nelson Rockfeller at the Rockfeller Center.

In 1938, Frida Kahlo became a friend of André Breton, one of the major figures of the Surrealism movement. Frida said she never considered herself as a Surrealist "until André Breton came to Mexico and told me I was one".

In the same year, she had an exhibition at a New York City gallery. She sold about half of the 25 paintings shown there and received two commissions.

At the invitation of André Breton, she went to France in 1939 and was featured at an exhibition of her paintings in Paris. The Louvre bought one of her paintings, The Frame, which was displayed at the exhibit. This was the first work by a 20th century Mexican artist ever purchased by the internationally renowned museum. She also developed friendships with such artists as Marcel Duchamp, March Chagall and Pablo Picasso.

In 1941, the Mexican government commissioned Kahlo to paint five portraits of famous Mexican women, but she was unable to complete the job. That year, she lost her loving father and continued to struggle with chronic health issues. Despite her personal difficulties, her work grew in popularity and was featured in a number of group shows at this time.
Kahlo had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953. Kahlo attended the inauguration of the show despite being bedridden at the time. Kahlo arrived by ambulance and spent the evening in a four-poster bed built up in the gallery exclusively for her, talking and rejoicing with the event's participants.

A few days before her death on July 13, 1954, Frida wrote in her diary: "I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return - Frida". The official cause of death was given as pulmonary embolism, although some suspected that she died from overdose that may or may not have been accidental.

Towards the end of her life, Frida expressed her curiosity about her roots by mentioning that her grandparents, Henriette Kaufmann and Jakob Kahlo, were born in Arad before relocating to Germany (from Romania Insider 5/06/2024).

See my Inspirations section for:

Articles about Frida's cult and Fridamania available in this section.

Among her numerous biographies I strongly suggest "FRIDA. A Biography of Frida Kahlo" by Hayden Herrera.

video by RAI ARTE  (in Italian)

Italian article by Finestre sull'Arte