Frida Kahlo-Painter of Pain
Recently I decided to look into the biography of Frida Kahlo, the female Mexican artist who definitely painted her pain. Above is my personal favorite picture of her. Most of her paintings have always felt a bit unsettling and disturbing to me. I never felt comfortable viewing them, but I think it was because I never researched her life to find out why she painted the things she did. I really didn’t know anything about her until I watched a Biography DVD about her that I checked out from the library a couple of weeks ago. It was then that I learned about the horrific bus accident she was in when she was just 18 years old. This accident changed her life in many ways.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. Her full name was Magdelena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderon. She later changed the spelling of her first name to a less Germanic spelling. Her father was Wilhelm Kahlo, a “German-Jew of Hungarian descent who had come to Mexico as a young man.” He first worked in the jewelry trade which was his father’s business, then took up photography after marrying Matlde, his second wife. Then he changed his last name to Guillermo.
Frida’s father was a positive influence in her life. When she was six, she was stricken with polio. Guillermo encouraged her to swim, participate in sports, ride a bike and keep herself physically active. However, her right leg remained disfigured and much thinner than her left for the rest of her life. She mostly wore long skirts and long pants to hide it.
When Frida was 15, she was admitted to the Prepa, or National Preparatory School. She changed her birth year to 1910 and claimed to be 12 instead. It is believed she did this because she wanted to be more closely associated with the Mexican Revolution which began that year.
September 17, 1926, was the day that changed her life forever. Frida had been shopping with her friend Alejandro Arias. As they were walking along they decided to catch a bus that had benches along the sides for people to sit on. As the bus driver tried to pass in front of a turning streetcar, they crashed and Frida was thrown from the bus. Alejandro found her lying in the street with the rod of a metal handrail impaling her left hip and exiting through her female organs. She also suffered several fractures in her third and fourth vertebrae, pelvis, and right foot. Her left elbow was dislocated and the rod also caused a deep abdominal wound. She spent a month in the hospital and never went back to school.
“Accident” 1926 by Frida Kahlo
After she went home she was confined to bed for much of her recovery. It was at this time that her mother gave her a small lap easel to use for painting. So Frida put a mirror in the canopy of her bed and began painting her self-portraits and still lifes. When she was able to get up more, she also began to paint larger portraits of people she knew.
Frida Kahlo painting in bed
Frida suffered through many operations, several body casts, and a great deal of mental as physical anguish. Her friend Alejandro went away to Europe for two years and they wrote to each other, and he visited sometimes, but their relationship was not meant to become anything more.
Frida fell in love with and married Diego Rivera on August 21, 1929, a famous, overweight, middle-aged artist, when she was just 19. She relished the attention she received in being his wife. They had a rocky marriage and both had affairs; the most devastating one for Frida was when Diego had an affair with her sister, Christina. Diego and Frida divorced in 1939, but were remarried a little over a year later and stayed married until her death on July 13, 1954.
She painted over 150 paintings in her lifetime but only had one individual exhibition. It was held from April 13 to 27, 1953, in Mexico at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo. She had also suffered through many more operations in prior years in attempts to fix her spine and leg which had both been so badly damaged in the bus accident, but the last operation she had was in 1953 when her right leg was amputated below the knee because of gangrene.
There is so much more to know about Frida Kahlo, but I don’t want this post to be too long. If you would like to know any more about her life and paintings, you can read more about her here: http://www.fridakahlofans.com/biocomplete.html.
I also would recommend the book “Frida Kahlo, The Brush of Anguish” by Martha Zamora, which is the source I used for this post and where the quote in the second paragraph came from. I found the pictures on Google.
I have often thought about trying to paint about some of the painful things I have gone through in my life, but then when I sit down to paint, I find I would rather paint beauty, because focusing on flowers, landscapes or beautiful sea creatures is what has helped me through the last few years. I appreciate everyone who loves the sea turtles I have painted.
I am currently working on doing illustrations for a children’s story I wrote quite a while back (not Larry, the Lonely Leatherback, but a different one.) I have been trying to get the characters to look the way I have them pictured in my mind, but sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to draw them in certain poses! However, it is a challenge, which is what I love and keeps me going.
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂