Frida Kahlo

The artist stands in a stage-like space framed by white curtains. Beneath black hair woven with red yarn and flowers, heavy brows accent her dark-eyed gaze. Clad in a fringed, honey-toned shawl; long, pink skirt; and gold jewelry, she holds a bouquet and a handwritten letter.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, 1937; Oil on Masonite, 30 x 24 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce; © 2012 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image by Google

1907 to 1954

Kahlo was the third of four daughters born to a German Hungarian-Jewish father and a mother of Spanish and Mexican Indian descent. She did not originally plan to become an artist; rather, Kahlo, who was a polio survivor, entered a prestigious pre-medical program when she was 15. Three years later, Kahlo was gravely hurt in a bus accident. She spent more than a year in bed, recovering from multiple fractures of her back, collarbone, and ribs, as well as a shattered pelvis and shoulder and foot injuries. Kahlo spent the rest of her life in constant pain, finally succumbing to related complications at the age of 47.

During her recovery, Kahlo started painting in oils, creating deliberately naive self-portraits and still lifes filled with the bright colors and flattened forms of the Mexican folk art she had always loved. In 1929, Kahlo married the much older Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, whose approach to art and political activism complemented her own. Theirs was a volatile relationship that underwent marital infidelities, the pressures of Rivera’s career, a divorce and remarriage, and Kahlo’s deteriorating health.

Kahlo and Rivera traveled to the United States and France, where she encountered many influential figures from the worlds of art and politics. In 1938, she had her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. She enjoyed international success beginning in the 1940s. Her reputation soared posthumously, beginning in the 1980s with the publication of numerous books about her work by feminist art historians and others.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Frida Kahlo
  • Birth

    Coyoacán, Mexico, 1907
  • Death

    Coyoacán, Mexico, 1954
  • Phonetic Spelling

    FREE-dah KAH-loh
  • NMWA Exhibitions

    • Mamacita Linda: Letters between Frida Kahlo and her Mother
    • Places of Their Own: Emily Carr, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, 2002
    • Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987–1997, 1997
    • Latin American Women Artists, 1915–1995, 1996
    • Lola Alvarez Bravo: Portraits of Frida Kahlo, 1991
    • Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1990

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