Frida Kahlo is a celebrated artist as well as a cultural and political icon. She is best known for her symbol-filled self portraits and Mexican folk art style. In her paintings Kahlo explores identity, gender and political philosophy, as well as her own life experiences and personal pain.
Kahlo mixed realism with fantasy and has been described as a surrealist, though, Kahlo disagreed and said of her art:
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
The Bus Crash that Changed Her Life
As a young woman Frida Kahlo was severely injured in a bus crash, breaking her spine in three places, and fracturing her leg, collar bone, ribs and pelvis.
Kahlo was bed-ridden for months and in constant pain. Her parents attached an easel to her bed and brought her paints to help pass the time and manage her pain.
Kahlo suffered lifelong complications as a result of the bus crash and underwent over 30 surgeries. Her works often depict her physical pain, such as The Broken Column. Kahlo painted The Broken Column in 1944, shortly after undergoing corrective surgery on her spine.
Feminist and Queer Icon
Kahlo has become a feminist and queer icon for the 21st century. She was a powerful disabled women who could be described by a modern audience as a feminist, as queer and an all-round revolutionary.
Kahlo took a progressive approach to gender and sexuality, rejecting social norms concerning romantic and sexual relationships as well as gender expression and identity.
Kahlo embraced her femininity and masculinity, ignoring the gender norms of her time. She took part in wrestling and boxing, activities which were considered to be unsuitable for girls at the time. She embraced her Mexican identity and natural beauty; celebrating her upper lip hair and her marvellous unibrow – which became a symbol of her identity through her self-portraits. She once wrote in her diary:
“Of my face, I like my eyebrows and eyes”.
Frida Kahlo took an equally liberated approach to love and was openly bisexual. She had affairs with both men and women throughout her life and during her long and complex marriage to fellow artist, Diego Rivera.
Kahlo’s trail-blazing approach to life, love and art has inspired generations and created her truly iconic and much celebrated status in the 21st century.
Frida Kahlo | Masterpieces of Art
Frida Kahlo | Masterpieces of Art features a fantastic collection of Kahlo’s work, telling the story of her life through her art. The book compiles a whole range of Kahlo’s work, from her early representations of her personal pain to her later works depicting her more subdued state.
The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism
The Militant Muse: Love, War and the Women of Surrealism, explores the experiences of the fantastic women surrealists thoughout the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. The book gives a wonderful insight into the lives and relationships of many great artists from Frida Kahlo and Jacqueline Lamba to Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini.
Frida Kahlo – Little People, BIG DREAMS
Frida Kahlo – Little People, BIG DREAMS tells the story of how Frida Kahlo’s art flourished from her tragedy, how she used her art to escape her pain and how she became the amazing artist and icon that we know today. An inspiring story for young readers and budding artists.
Sadly, you cannot see any of Frida Kahlo’s paintings anywhere in the UK. You can see her paintings in Mexico, the US and in Paris.
The Frida Kahlo museum, (Museo Frida Kahlo) is in Mexico City and is set in the family home of Frida Kahlo. Here you can see her paintings Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick, Frida and Stalin, and Viva la Vida.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, has three of Frida Kahlo’s best know paintings My Grandparents, Parents and I (Family Tree), Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair and Fulang-Chang and I.
You can see Frida Kahlo’s The Frame at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou).
This self-portrait was originally bought by the Louvre in 1939. It is an unusual piece which uses mixed medium, the portrait is painted on aluminium, while the flowers are painted onto the back of the glass.
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