Frida Kahlo is known worldwide as one of the most revolutionary self-portrait artists. She had a difficult life but produced some of the finest paintings ever created by a Latin American painter. She remains a feminist icon for the way she led her life. Here are 10 interesting facts about this great Mexican painter.
#1 She wanted her birth to coincide with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City. The Mexican Revolution began three years after her birth. Frida later gave her birth date as July 7, 1910 so that her life would coincide with the birth of modern Mexico.
#2 She won tequila challenges with hefty men
At the age of six, Frida contracted polio due to which her right leg became thinner than the left. She hid this through her life by wearing long colorful skirts. From a young age Frida challenged the status quo. Apart from playing sports like boxing, she joined a gang and fell in love with its leader. Later, she was known to party till late night and even won tequila challenges with many men.
#3 She became a painter after a near fatal accident
On September 17th 1925 Frida and her friend Alex was riding in a bus when it crashed into a street trolley car. Due to the grave injuries she suffered in the accident, Frida had to undergo 35 operations in her life, bear with relapses of extreme pain and could not have children. During the period of three months after the accident in which she was immobile, Frida made several paintings, mostly self-portraits which she made using the mirror across her bed. This led to Frida abandoning her career in medicine and becoming an artist.
#4 She is known as the master of Self-Portraits
In her career, Frida Kahlo created 143 paintings out of which 55 are self-portraits. Kahlo said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Her self portraits often include interpretations of physical and psychological wounds. Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits are considered among the finest ever created. Her most famous self-portrait is perhaps ‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’.
#5 Frida married the famous painter Diego Rivera
Kahlo admired the work of the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. She first approached him in 1927. Rivera was impressed with her work and encouraged her which contributed in Frida becoming an artist. Soon their relationship became intimate and they married on August 21, 1929 when he was 42 and she was 22. It was Rivera’s third marriage. People often referred to the couple as “The Elephant and the Dove” due to the difference in their size.
#6 Frida Kahlo was a bisexual
Kahlo’s marriage with Rivera was tumultuous with both having multiple affairs. Frida had affairs with both men and women. Rivera even had an affair with Kahlo’s younger sister Cristina which infuriated Kahlo. They divorced in 1939 but remarried a year later. Although their second marriage was as troubled as the first, Kahlo remained married to Rivera till her death.
#7 She had an affair with the founder of the Red Army
The founder of Red Army, the famous Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky came to Mexico to receive political asylum from the Soviet Union. He first stayed with Rivera and later had an affair with Kahlo. Kahlo created a painting titled ‘Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky’ to commemorate her brief affair.
#8 She became famous a couple of decades after her death
Kahlo died 20 days after her 47th birthday on July 26, 1954. A few days before her death, she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida”. Kahlo was moderately successful during her lifetime and it was only several years after her death that her work became widely acclaimed. During her lifetime she was mainly known in Mexico as Rivera’s wife, now she is popular worldwide and Rivera is known as her husband.
#9 Her work ‘Roots’ set the record for a Latin American Piece of Art
Frida Kahlo was a central figure in the Neomexicanismo Art Movement in Mexico which emerged in the 1970s. Her art has been called folk art due to traditional elements and some call it Surrealist though Kahlo herself said, “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” In May 2006, her self-portrait “Roots” sold for US$5.6 million dollars setting an auction record for a Latin American piece of art.
#10 Two famous movies have been made on her life
Numerous articles, books and documentaries have been made about Kahlo’s life and art, including the bestseller Frida: The Biography of Frida Kahlo (1983) by Hayden Herrera. The movie ‘Frida, naturaleza viva’ was released in 1983 and was a huge success. In 2002 another biographical film ‘Frida’, in which Salma Hayek plays her role, grossed over $US 50 million and won two Academy Awards.