Frida Kahlo Biography
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderón was a painter, who was born on July 6, 1907, in Coyoacán, Mexico. Known in the world for the suffering reflected in her works, which are based on her life and what she had to go through.
Frida Kahlo is the third daughter of the union between the German photographer, Guillermo Kahlo, and Matilde Calderón. The first daughter was Matilde, followed by Adriana, Guillermo (died a few days later), Frida and Cristina. Cristina was the closest to Frida and was the only one who left offspring. Guillermo Kahlo before knowing Matilde had a relationship with María Cardeña Espino, who died in the birth of Margarita, with whom he had three daughters: Luisa, María (died a few days after birth) and Margarita.
After the death of her mother and the situation with the new partner of her father, Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo got on board in Hamburg and arrived in Veracruz, Mexico in 1890. As a synonym of having broken relations with his family of origin, he changed his name to Guillermo, the meaning of his name in Spanish. In 1893, he married María Cardeña, who died four years later. In 1898, he married Matilde Calderón. In 1904, the family moved to Coyoacán, to the well-known and famous Casa Azul, which is currently where the Frida Kahlo Museum is located.
From an early age, Frida Kahlo had to endure physical suffering due to several diseases she suffered. In 1913, she contracted poliomyelitis, that’s how she started several chains of surgeries, injuries, accidents. This disease made her stay in bed for nine months and left her with a sequel because her right leg was much thinner than her left leg. The very remarkable motor limitation and the surgeries made Frida grow differently and was often limited to sharing with other children.
In 1922, Frida had the opportunity to observe Diego Rivera while he was making his first mural in the Simon Bolivar Amphitheater of the National Preparatory School.
On September 17, 1925, Frida Kahlo suffered an accident while she was returning with her boyfriend Alejandro Gómez Arias from the school, as the bus they were traveling in had an accident with a tram, which was crushed against a wall and destroyed. Her spine was fractured in three parts, also suffering fractures in the clavicle, three in the pelvic bone and two ribs. Her right foot was dislocated, her left shoulder was dislocated, her right leg was fractured in eleven parts and a handrail pierced her from the left hip to exit through the vagina. Because of all these fractures, she was operated many times, after that she had to live with corsets.
“What do I want feet for if I have wings to fly”
Frida before the accident showed no interest in art, because of polio she was more inclined towards sports. But after her accident, the least she had to do was to move so that she would heal faster, and that was the time in which she learned to paint, and that influenced with all possibility in the creation of the complex psychological world that is reflected in her paintings
In September 1926, Frida Kahlo made her first self-portrait, she painted it as a gift for her boyfriend, Alejandro Gómez Arias, who had ended the relationship. She gave it to him in order to recover his affection and he could remember her. In the back, she wrote in German: “Today is always still” In that first work, she learned something that she would do the rest of her life, reflected in her paintings the events of her life and the feelings that produced her.
In 1927, Frida had already made several portraits, among them her younger sister, Cristina. By that time Frida already frequented political, intellectual and artistic environments. Frida met Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban communist, and his wife, photographer Tina Modotti. Tina and Frida became friends and Tina invited Frida Kahlo to several political meetings of the Mexican Communist Party, an organization in which Frida joined.
In 1928, Frida met again Diego Rivera in several meetings and dinners that went with Tina Modotti. Frida had never spoken to him, but one day she visited him while making several murals in the building of the Ministry of Public Education, to show him several of her works. Diego Rivera was fascinated by Frida’s works and encouraged her to continue, and from that day he was constantly invited to the home of the Kahlo Calderón family.
In 1929, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera got married; their relationship was based on adventures with other people, love, creativity, and hatred.
In 1930, Frida became pregnant for the first time, but due to the strange position of the fetus and the aftermath of the accident on the bus, the three-month pregnancy had to be interrupted. The first of several unsuccessful pregnancies of Frida.
Between 1931 and 1934, Frida and Diego lived in New York. In 1932, they moved to Detroit since Diego had been hired to paint several murals there. In that city, Frida suffered another abortion, while her recovery painted her self-portrait Aborto en Detroit. In 1933, they returned to Mexico. The couple managed to complement each other despite their love affairs outside of the relationship. Diego Rivera cheated on Frida with several women, among them is her younger sister, Cristina, but this romance with Cristina affected Frida so much and gave a conclusive turn in her relationships as a couple.
Frida began other relationships with both men and women who continued their entire lives. Between 1937 and 1939, Leon Trotsky and his wife lived in exile in the house of Frida in Coyoacán. Frida and Leon Trotsky had an affair. After the murder of Leon, Frida and Diego were arrested and accused of it, but then they were released. In 1939, Frida and Diego separated. Frida returned temporarily to her home in Coyoacán. It was a time of depressed mood in which Frida consumed alcohol as a way to alleviate her physical and psychological suffering. In that same year, she exhibited in Paris at the gallery Renón et Collea thanks to Breton. That stay in Paris led her to interact with the Spanish painter, Picasso.
In all her paintings Frida Kahlo appears dressed in Mexican and wears pre-Columbian jewels. Diego Rivera liked the way she dressed and her long black hair. In self-portrait with haircut from 1940, Frida Kahlo renounces the attributes of her femininity and shows herself dressed in a big man’s suit and sitting on a yellow chair on a red and orange floor surrounded by her hair that had been just cut, in the part The verses of a Mexican song are written on the top of the painting: “Look, if I loved you, it was because of my hair, now that you’re bald, I do not love you anymore.”
“They thought I was surreal, but I was not. I never painted my dreams. I painted my own reality”
After the separation, Diego, and Frida continued to share part of their social life. In June 1940, Diego traveled to San Francisco, Frida followed him in September of that year. Two months later the couple decided to get married again. The new friendly pact consisted of living together, sharing expenses, continuing artistic collaboration and suppressing the couple’s sex life. In those years, they became more recognized and made several exhibitions in several museums in different countries and cities. In 1943, she taught at a school known as La Esmeralda.
In 1950, Frida had to be hospitalized and stayed in the hospital one year. In 1953 in Mexico there was an individual exhibition, the exhibition was in the Contemporary Art Gallery. Frida for that year was in very bad health and doctors forbade her to attend. But Frida arrived at the exhibition in an ambulance, lying on a stretcher. The stretcher was placed in the center of the art gallery; Frida sang and told jokes all afternoon. In that same year, due to a gangrene infection, Frida had to have her leg amputated (below the knee), this caused her to fall back into depression and made several suicide attempts. At that time Frida Kahlo wrote poems in her diaries, most had to do with suffering and pain.
In 1954, Frida wrote about her suicide attempts and that the only thing that held her back was not to miss Diego. On April 19 of that year, she was admitted for attempted suicide, and on May 6 of that same year she relapsed and was hospitalized again for another suicide attempt. In her museum her last painting is exhibited, it is an oil painting that shows several cuts of watermelons in bright colors. In one of those pieces and next to his signature is written “Viva la Vida.” The last words in her diary were:
“I look forward to the departure and I hope never to return” – Frida Kahlo.
On July 13, 1954, Frida Kahlo died, was veiled at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, her body was cremated in the Crematorio Civil de Dolores and her ashes are kept in the Blue House of Coyoacán, the museum of Frida Kahlo, the place that saw it born and grow.