Biography: Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo frequently employs the visual symbolism of physical pain in her artwork
Frida Kahlo frequently employs the visual symbolism of physical pain in her artwork. Kahlo not only adopted a preexisting language but also developed it and made it uniquely her own. To better understand how humans behave on the outside, Kahlo exposed internal organs and painted her own body as broken and bleeding. She put together recurring themes throughout her career, such as personal animals, ribbons, and hair, and, as a result, developed a fresh and compelling way to talk about the most nuanced facets of female identity. Kahlo's recognizable face offers enduring trauma support, and she is a figure deserving of our adoration in addition to being a "great artist." Her influence cannot be understated. (The Art Story, n.d.)
On July 6, 1907, Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacan, a small community outside Mexico City. Wilhelm, Kahlo's father, was born in Germany and moved to Mexico as a young man. He lived there for the rest of his life and eventually took over the family business. The children were brought up in a strict religious environment by their mother, who was of mixed Mexican and Spanish descent.
Numerous other events in her upbringing significantly impacted her, in addition to her family's conservatism, religious extremism, and propensity to erupt. When Kahlo was six years old, she was diagnosed with polio. After a lengthy rehabilitation, which isolated her from other children and permanently crippled one of her legs, she was forced to walk with a hobble. The fact that all of her siblings went to convent schools suggests that Kahlo needed a broad education, leading to her father making particular choices just for her.
This made Kahlo grateful, and despite her tumultuous relationship with her mother, she always attributed her father's great empathy and intelligence to her. Nevertheless, she found both of her ancestries fascinating, and because of her mixed Mexican and European heritage, she has always been curious about her art and everyday life.
She had a horrible experience at the German school, where she was physically assaulted and forced to leave. Fortunately, the education minister then revised the educational guidelines, and starting in 1922, females were admitted to the National Prep School. She was one of the first 35 women to enroll and began studying sociology, horticulture, and health. After achieving academic success and developing a deep love for Mexican culture, Frida became involved in politics and society. (2022)
When Kahlo was 15 years old, Diego Rivera was working on a mural in the amphitheater of her school. Kahlo experienced an instant attraction and intrigue when she saw his painting, which she would later pursue. She worked as an assistant engraver for Fernando Fernandez, helping her father in his photographic shop and taking drawing lessons from him.
At the same time, Kahlo came into contact with the "Cachuchas," a dissident group of students who supported the young artist's rebellious nature and encouraged her interests in reading and philosophy. Alejandro Arias, a fellow group member, and Frida Kahlo fell in love in 1923; they remained close friends until 1928.
Unfortunately, the two were hurt in a close-call bus accident in 1925 while traveling home. Her entire body was broken, including her pelvis, which was broken, and a bar pierced her womb. She was at home for many months after being hospitalized for four weeks while restrained in a plaster corset.
She decided to experiment with small-scale autobiographical portraits during her extensive rehabilitation, abandoning her medical studies due to practical considerations and refocusing on painting.
Kahlo's parents created a unique workspace for her during her recovery in seclusion, gave her a set of colors, and hung a mirror over her head to see herself and draw self-portraits. She pondered the metaphysical issues brought about by her experiences for hours, including alienation from her personality, increased introspection, and a general sense of impending death. She applied the same emotional sensitivity to her early photographs to her father's portraits by drawing heavily on the intense graphic realism she was familiar with. Kahlo strongly considered becoming a medical illustrator during this time because she saw it as a way to combine her skills in art and science.
She finally gained the strength to leave her bedroom in 1927, rekindling her friendship with the Cachuchas group, which had turned more political by then. She joined the Mexican Communist Party and began to get to know the political and cultural milieu of Mexico City. She became close friends with Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban rebel, and photographer Tina Modotti.
She was formally presented to Diego Rivera in June 1928 at one of Modotti's frequent parties. Diego Rivera was one of Mexico's best-known painters and a vital member of the PCM. Soon after, after looking at one of her paintings, she asked him to determine whether or not her artwork was suitable for maintaining a career as a painter. The sincerity and originality of her artwork astounded him, and he was able to persuade her of her talent. Even though Rivera had already been married and was rumored to have an insatiable passion for women, the two quickly forged a passionate relationship and were married in 1929. (2022)
Kahlo's exposure to the modernist indigenous movement in Mexico, Kahlo's paintings by the early 1930s had developed to include a more robust sense of Mexican identity. By changing her name from Frieda to Frida and dressing in traditional Tehuana garb, Kahlo demonstrated her interest in distancing herself from her German heritage (the dress from earlier matriarchal times). Two failed pregnancies at the time added to Kahlo's portrayal of the female experience through symbolism and autobiography, which was at once harsh and beautiful.
Kahlo and Rivera spent the first few years of the 1930s residing in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York, while Rivera worked on numerous murals. Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931) and Self-Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States (1932) express Kahlo's observations of the conflict between nature and industry in the two countries, which are considered seminal works. Kahlo met Imogen Cunningham, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston during this period and grew close to them. (The Art Story, n.d.)
Frida's Marriage to Diego
The famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Kahlo got married in 1929. When Rivera visited Kahlo's high school to work on a project, they first spoke in 1922. Kahlo frequently observed Rivera's painting The Creation, a mural in the school's lecture hall. Kahlo confided to a friend that she would one day give birth to Rivera's child.
In 1928, Kahlo and Rivera reunited. He supported her artistic endeavors, and so the two started dating. Kahlo frequently followed Rivera during their early years together, based on where Rivera was being paid commissions. They were residents of San Francisco, California, in 1930. Following Rivera's exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, they next traveled to Detroit for Rivera's commission from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
1933 in New York City was a contentious time for Kahlo and Rivera. The man at the Crossroads, a mural by Diego Rivera commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller, is located in the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. After Rivera incorporated a portrait of communist leader Vladimir Lenin into the mural, which was later painted over, Rockefeller stopped the project's progress.
The couple left Mexico a few months after the incident and moved to San Angel, Mexico. Kahlo and Rivera, who were never traditionally married, maintained separate but close-by homes and studios in San Angel. His numerous affairs, including one with her sister Cristina, made her sad.
Kahlo cut off most of her distinctive long, dark hair in response to this betrayal from her family. She wanted a child so badly that when she miscarried in 1934, she once more felt heartbreak. Although Kahlo and Rivera experienced times apart, they teamed up in 1937 to support exiled Soviet communist Leon Trotsky and his wife, Natalia.
In 1937, the Trotskys moved in with them at the Blue House (Kahlo's childhood home), staying there for a while after being granted asylum in Mexico. Trotsky, who had once opposed Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, feared his former foe would assassinate him. Trotsky and Kahlo reportedly had a quick relationship at this time. Rivera and Kahlo split up in 1939. They got back together in 1940 after a fast divorce. The couple lived largely separate lives as they got older and started dating other people. (Biography, 2018)
Kahlo had her leg amputated from the knee down in 1953 as a result of complications from one of the numerous operations she had undergone. As she grew older, her health deteriorated, which was made worse by Kahlo's heavy use of painkillers and drinking habits. Throughout her final days, Kahlo's health rapidly deteriorated. Her last work, Self-Portrait Inside a Sunflower (1954), lacks the exact brushstrokes that usually set her work apart and shows signs of her waning vitality. Kahlo, however, continued to work until the very end.
A few days before she passed away, Kahlo mustered the energy to use her wheelchair to attend a protest against the CIA-backed takeover of Guatemala's democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz. Kahlo passed away at 47 on July 13, 1954, just a few days after the protest.
How did Frida Kahlo die?
Although a pulmonary embolism was given as Frida Kahlo's official cause of death, questions still linger. Her actual cause of death was shrouded in mystery due to the hasty cremation and incomplete autopsy. Some believe the artist overdosed and committed suicide. A diary entry she made in which she expressed frustration over her declining health and drew a black angel to symbolize it furthers the suicide theory.
A few days before she passed, the entry was made: "They amputated my leg six months ago; they have tortured me for centuries, and there have been times when I nearly lost my sense of reason. I continue to wait to commit suicide. I hope the departure is happy and that I never return. Frida Kahlo was known for her incredible zest for life, but those who think she committed suicide point to the fact that she was struggling at the end. (Ishak, 2021)
Without a doubt, Mexico's most well-known contemporary painter is Frida Kahlo. She has undoubtedly significantly benefited from how the modern world perceives the distinctive way she developed her public persona. Her exceptional biographical narrative, which serves as her artistic legacy, tells the tale of her personal experiences, suffering, convictions, and passions through drama and a wealth of symbolism. For art historians and curators, this poses a challenge because her life and art are closely related, and her artistic contribution runs the risk of being overshadowed by her extraordinary life story. The dramatic elements of Frida's story are revived in her work, which is a fascinating synthesis of visual and symbolic systems from various cultures. When these systems are reflected on her canvases, they assume a new form. (Google Arts & Culture, n.d.)
The Art Story. (n.d.). www.theartstory.org. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from https://www.theartstory.org/artist/kahlo-frida/
Art in context. (2022, March 8). artincontext.org. artincontext.org. https://artincontext.org/frida-kahlo/
Biography. (2018, February 28). www.biography.com. https://www.biography.com/artist/frida-kahlo
Google Arts & Culture. (n.d.). artsandculture.google.com. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from https://artsandculture.google.com/theme/defining-frida-kahlo-s-place-in-art-history/zAKyF9pwAGmfKA?hl=en
Ishak, N. (2021, November 26). Inside Frida Kahlo's Death And The Mystery Behind It. allthatsinteresting.com. https://allthatsinteresting.com/how-did-frida-kahlo-die