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Even if you’re totally clueless when it comes to art, chances are you can easily recognize one of Frida Kahlo’s prized paintings. Little recognized in life for her unrestrained artistic brilliance, Frida Kahlo has risen to next-to-sacred proportions in death.
This week on Fine Art Canvas, join us as we explore the life and art of the bewitching Frida Kahlo.
The outer façade of Kahlo’s family home, La Casa Azul
Born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón in 1907 in Coyocán, Mexico to a German father and a native mother, Kahlo almost instantly took to following the artistic legacy started by her father, Guillermo Kahlo.
A highly accomplished photographer himself, Guillermo Kahlo often toted Frida along on business trips as his assistant. It was during these trips that Frida developed a love for painting that she continued to nurse for the rest of her life.
Although Kahlo enjoyed art casually throughout her childhood and adolescence, her life took a drastic turn in 1925. On their way home from school, Kahlo and a close friend became involved in a freakish and violent traffic accident that would leave her severely scarred for the rest of her life.
The wooden bus that Kahlo had been riding home from school that day suddenly collided with an oncoming streetcar, sending debris and passengers careening through the streets of Coyoacán. The young artist’s body was utterly brutalized in the crash: her pelvis had fractured, one of the bus’s iron handrails had punctured her abdomen, wreaking havoc on her reproductive system, six vertebrae had broken, her right leg had shattered in eleven places, her collarbone had been crushed, and her shoulder had dislocated.
Though she had survived the crash, Kahlo was left isolated from her friends and the outside world for several months as she underwent a harrowing series of surgeries and complete bed rest. Her mother, sympathizing with her daughter’s poor health, gifted Kahlo a special easel and mirror that could lean over her bed. With little else to do but paint, Kahlo dedicated herself to her art, developing the style and symbolism we recognize her for today.
Kahlo’s workspace in La Casa Azul
Frida Kahlo’s long struggle with pain at the hands of her own body can be easily identified in her extensive oeuvre. Of her over 200 paintings, 55 are self-portraits in which she explores the realities of living in a broken and traitorous body.
Her works are characterized by her brilliant use of color and her captivating mystical imagery. Each one of her canvases is charged with incredible nuance that belies her folk art style. Kahlo’s paintings figure heavy personal imagery and are loaded with surrealist and mythological elements meant to convey emotions, sensations, and inner strife. The effect of these powerful art pieces is immediate and has left a permanent impression on the minds and hearts of her audience.
The fascinating life of Frida Kahlo still manages to captivates the imagination of the public sixty-five years after her untimely passing.
Kahlo’s grit and determination to triumph over the many struggles in her life reveal her strength and zest for living. Her exuberant imagery has been appropriated by activists, other artists, and many marginalized people around the world who are both sympathetic and inspired by her story of survival and perseverance.
Want to learn more about Kahlo’s life? Explore this Google Arts and Culture file dedicated entirely to Frida!
“Frida Kahlo” by Gerry Souter, 2011