Frida Kahlo de Rivera July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954), born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was a Mexican painter known for her self-portraits.
Kahlo's life began and ended in Mexico City, in her home, which is known as "La Casa Azul," the Blue House. Her work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.
Mexican culture and tradition are important in her work, which has been sometimes characterized as naïve art or folk art.Her work has also been described as surrealist, and in 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo's art as a "ribbon around a bomb". Frida rejected the "surrealist" label imposed by Breton, as she argued that her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams.
Kahlo had a volatile marriage with the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were caused by a traffic accident she survived at the age of eighteen. Recovering from her injuries isolated her from other people, and this isolation influenced her works, many of which are self-portraits. Kahlo suggested, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best."
After her accident, Kahlo abandoned the study of medicine and began to paint, to occupy herself during her three-month immobilization. Self-portraits were a dominant motif then. Kahlo once said, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." Her mother had a special easel made so she could paint in bed, and her father lent her his box of oil paints and some brushes. The 1926 painting, entitled Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress, shows her with a long and narrow face and neck, reflective of Italian Renaissance ideals.
Kahlo's accident made it impossible for her to have her own children, resulting in several miscarriages throughout her life. Because of her experiences with infertility, many of her paintings reference reproductive failure. She painted Henry Ford Hospital right after her miscarriage in 1932. In this work, Frida depicts herself on a bed bleeding, with the cold and industrial feeling from being far from home in Detroit, shown behind her. She chose to paint on a sheet of metal.
Kahlo created at least 140 paintings, along with dozens of drawings and studies. Of her paintings, 55 are self-portraits which often incorporate symbolic portrayals of physical and psychological wounds. She insisted, "I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.". Her nude self portraits are surrealistic depictions of specifically female biologically based sufferings and unlike most renditions of the female nude, hers refer to direct personal experience.
Diego Rivera had a great influence on Kahlo's painting style. Kahlo had always admired Rivera and his work. She first approached him in the Ministry of Public Education, where he had been working on a mural in 1927. She showed him four of her paintings, and asked whether he considered her gifted. Rivera was impressed and said, "You have got talent." After that, he became a frequent welcomed guest at Kahlo's house. He gave her many insights about her artwork while still leaving her space to explore herself. The positive and encouraging comments made by Rivera strengthened Kahlo's wish to pursue a career as an artist.
Kahlo was also influenced by indigenous Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bright colors, dramatic symbolism and primitive style. She frequently included the monkey, which in Mexican mythology is a symbol of lust, and Kahlo portrayed it as tender and protective symbols. Christian and Jewish themes are often depicted in her work. She combined elements of the classic religious Mexican tradition with surrealist renderings.