Frida was born to a mixed parentage of, Hungarian Jewish father and a Spanish and Native American mother in Mexico City in 1907. Her chequered life was to be plagued by a series of physical traumas. The first blow came early. At the tender age of six, polio struck the lively young Frida; and it left her with a limp. However that didn’t deter Frida from being a fearless tomboy. Her bold and lively nature made Frida her father's favorite. He nurtured great dreams for her, and in 1922 she was enrolled in the Preparatoria (National Preparatory School), the most prestigious educational institution in Mexico. She was one of only thirty-five girls out of two thousand students.
Frida it seems was destined to meet her husband-to-be, Diego Rivera This famous muralist had been commissioned to paint a mural in her school. Kahlo found him fascinating and in her own adolescent ways tried to attract his attention by teasing him, playing practical jokes, and by trying to excite the jealousy of the painter's wife, Lupe Marin.
In a pleasant spring morning of 1925, a young Frida Kahlo was riding a bus with her then boyfriend, blissfully unaware of the way her life was going to be tragically changed forever in a few moments. The bus collided with a tramcar, and Frida sustained serious injuries in her right leg and pelvis. This particular accident marked her in more ways than one: the pelvic injury made it impossible for her to have children. The indomitable spirit of Frida, however refused to be bogged down by this and she refused to accept what fate seems to have in store for her- an unfulfilled life. Fighting, what was to be a life long battle against pain in 1926, she painted her first self-portrait. This portrait was the beginning of a long series in which documented the most significant events of her life and her emotional reactions to them.
Kahlo very famously says of her marriage with Diego Rivera: 'I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down... The other accident is Diego.'
Their marriage was an intesely passionate but stormy one tempered by Diego's philandering life style. These two people with fiery temperaments couldn’t live with each other and couldn’t stay apart either. Both had numerous affairs outside marriage and divorced, only to remarry in 1940. The second marriage was also a turbulent one.
Frida's Paintings always reflect her Personal traumas (troubled marriage, painful miscarriages, amorous affairs). Which is why her works are provocative and disturbing . Most of her paintings are self-portraits, and they talk about her pain and wounds. The liberal use of bright colors reflects the indigenous Mexican culture. Symbolism and other dramatic devises are unapologetically used to depict harsh and gory content.
Some of her most popular paintings are discussed below:
Two Fridas- The duality of her persona is very clearly projected in this painting. Two parts of the painter are shown holding onto each other. Conflict within is ultimately resolved by an attempt of reaching out. A part of her is suffering and wanting death and the other wanting life.
Henry Ford Hospital- Most critics suggest that this painting was made after a miscarriage. The trauma of being hospitalized in a strange and alien city away from the comforts of home could also be a reason for its disturbing nature .She later claimed this painting as a memory of being in the hospital. In the painting she lies in a hospital bed holding onto red lines, blood vessels connected to various symbols of parts of herself. The symbols are- a pelvis, an embryo, a broken spine, a flower, a snail, and a machine, all of these have some significance in her life. A crouching Frida is bleeding on the bed and she desperately holds onto the cord as if holding on to last bit of hope.
Self Portrait as a Tehuana (Diego on My Mind)-
This painting is an ode to her husband Diego. Frida as Mexican bride with intricate lace and flowers on her crown has a portrait of Diego superimposed on her forehead suggesting the obvious- Diego in her mind. She wrote into her diary about this time “…Diego… beginning… Diego…builder… Diego…my child… Diego…my sweetheart… Diego…painter… Diego…my lover… Diego…my husband… Diego…my friend… Diego…my mother… Diego…my father…Diego…my son… Diego…I… Diego…universe… Diversity in Unity. Why do I call him my Diego? He never was and he never will be mine. He belongs to himself.”
Frida's painful and troubled life came to an end July 13, 1954. the last entry in her diary read: "I hope the exit is joyful; and I hope never to return." But anyone who has experienced Frida's painting will hope otherwise. We hope there is another Frida…another life which inspires us to celebrate pain in the grandest fashion.