Frida Kahlo – Feminist icon
Dear Frida Kahlo
Boy, did you pack a lot of living into your 47 years.
Despite contracting Polio as a child and being crippled in a near fatal bus accident while only 18 years old you didn’t sit back and cry about the unfairness of life. Instead you chose to take your pain and forge it into wild and beautiful art all of your own.
Twice married to Diego Rivera, the kind of man that our mothers warn us about, you responded to his womanising (and he even slept with your sister, damn it!) with love, tenderness and some pretty hot affairs of your own.
In a dangerous era of political turbulence you nailed your colours to the mast and threw yourself into trying to change the world.
And you even managed to get Madonna and J-Lo fighting over who would portray you on screen (and we thank the gods that neither won).
We think you’re everything a Mookychick should be and so we send you our love.
Love, Mookychick xxx
Frida Kahlo quotes
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”
“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”
“The art of Frida Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb.” (Andre Breton)
Frida Kahlo best known for
Creating over 200 paintings, drawings and sketches that combined elements of the classical Mexican tradition, indigenous Mexican culture and Surrealism.
Frida Kahlo least known for
Having an affair with Trotsky shortly before that whole unpleasant ice pick business.
Sex, politics and art – need we say more.
Frida Kahlo background
Frida Kahlo was born as Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón on July 6, 1907 in her parents’ home, known as La Casa Azul (The Blue House), in Coyoacán, on the outskirts of Mexico City . She was the third of four daughters (with two elder half-sisters from her father’s first marriage). Her father was a photographer of Hungarian Jewish descent, who had been born in Germany , and her mother was of indigenous and Spanish descent.
Frida contracted Polio when she was six years old which confined her to bed for nine months and left her left leg thinner than her right. Despite this she was a tomboy throughout her childhood and participated in a variety of sports, including boxing. She had got herself expelled from school once before, in 1922, she entered the Preparatoria ( National Preparatory School ), the most prestigious educational institution in Mexico , which had only just begun to admit girls. She was one of only thirty-five girls out of two thousand students. She continued her unconventional behaviour here, cross dressing and playing practical jokes.
In 1925 she was involved in a terrible accident when the bus that she was riding in was involved in a collision with a trolley bus. She suffered serious injuries including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. An iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which made it impossible for her to have children, though it was to be many years before she accepted this. For the rest of her life she was often bedridden for long periods and suffered frequent bouts of intense pain. It was during her recuperation from this accident that she first started painting and her first self-portrait dates from this period, when she was immobilised in a full body cast.
Two years later she met the muralist Diego Rivera (who she had briefly met before while at the Preparatoria) and asked him for advice on how to pursue her career as an artist. He recognised her talent, and as he encouraged her they began a relationship which resulted in their marriage in 1929. They were both active communists and the political climate of the time was dangerous for those with left wing views but his artistic reputation was growing rapidly and they spent several years in the United States (which she called ‘Gringolandia’), returning to Mexico in 1935. It was while recovering from a miscarriage in Detroit that Frida’s own artistic reputation started to grow although she pretended not to consider her work important.
The marriage was a tempestuous one and Rivera had had a number of affairs before seducing Frida’s younger sister Cristina on their return to Mexico . Although they made up their quarrel the relationship changed and she now embarked on a series of affairs with both men and women which were to continue for the rest of her life. Rivera tolerated her relationships with women far better than those with other men. They divorced early in 1940 before remarrying later that same year.
By now Frida had shown her work very successfully in New York and she also put on a show in France aided by the support of the surrealists Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp. She later disassociated herself from the surrealist movement but her reputation continued to grow through the 1940’s. Her health began to deteriorate badly after 1944 and in 1950 she was hospitalised for a year. Her paintings began to become more clumsy and chaotic, thanks to the joint effects of pain, drugs and drink, although she was offered her one and only solo show in Mexico in 1954. She was so ill at this stage that she attended in her own bed but the show was a success nonetheless. Shortly afterwards her right leg was amputated below the knee due to the threat of gangrene and she died of a pulmonary embolism in July of the same year (although some suspect that she may have died of an overdose).
Little known outside artistic circles her wider reputation began to build again in the 1980’s and has continued to strengthen with Madonna paying more than $2m for one of her works and major exhibitions being staged in London in 2005 and San Francisco in 2008.