Thoughtful Frida, Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images


FRIDA KAHLO (1907 - 1954)

One of the most recognized artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo’s body of work continues to resonate with audiences today. Kahlo’s unique painting style reflects both the culture of her native Mexico and contemporary artistic trends of her time. Kahlo’s Her work directly drew from all aspects of her turbulent and yet exceptional life, from her complex marriage to [HH1] the famed muralist, Diego Rivera, to complications surrounding childbirth, and the life-long pain and difficulties stemming from injuries she sustained in a bus accident at the age of 18. Frida Kahlo was also a cultural icon, recognized by her elaborate Tehuana clothing, stunning jewelry and hairstyles adorned with flowers – all of which allowed her to assert her Mexicanidad influenced by traditional Mexican culture. Kahlo was a contemporary of, and celebrated by, many of the most notable cultural figures of the 20th century including Lola Álvarez Bravo, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Josée Clemente Orozco, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, and Marcel Duchamp. Kahlo lived an outspoken life;, her artwork, politics and relationships all existed in opposition to the cultural norms and expectations and, she was in many ways,  she was ahead of her time. It is for this reason that she continues to be such an inspirational and relevant artist today, drawing attention from diverse audiences around the world.

At the time of her death in 1954, Frida Kahlo was widely known and respected within artistic circles in Mexico and abroad, but it was often in context of her relationship with Diego Rivera. In the decades following her death Frida’s Kahlo’s artwork grew in popularity and in the 1970’s her work and story gained greater attention coinciding with the growing feminist movement and international interest in Mexican arts and culture. In 1978, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago held Kahlo’s first major U.S. retrospective consisting of work from the Dolores Olmedo collection, and in 1983, author  author, Hayden Herrera published the wildly successful biography of Frida Kahlo. As the story of her life reached a broader and more extensive audience Kahlo’s popularity intensified.

Today Frida Kahlo’s work continues to be is today exhibited internationally, regularly attracting record museum attendance numbers.  She has become a popular icon, influencing the fashion industry, and LlGBTIQ and Latinx communities, and many others.  In 2002 Frida’s Kahlo’s life was the subject of a the film, Frida staring Selma Hayek and in 2016 Frida Kahlo’s painting, Two Nudes in the Forest (The Earth Itself) sold for a record $8 million at auction.  Today,While we encounter Frida’s image can be seen on everything from socks, to murals and coffee mugs, however, it is the honesty and strength in her work that continues to energize her legacy.

Key Events in Frida Kahlo’s life:

1907:  Born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico.

The house where she was born, later known as the blue houseBlue House, would remain her primary home for the rest of her life.

1913:  Contracts polio. 

1925:  The bus in which Kahlo is riding home in from school is struck by a trolley and Kahlo she is severely injured; fracturing her pelvic bone, breaking her spine in three places, her right leg in 11 places, dislocating her shoulder, and breaking her collarbone. In a later diagnosis, it was discovered that three additional vertebrae had been broken.

1926:  While recovering from her accident Kahlo begins painting to paint.

1929:  Marries the famous Mexican muralist and painter, Diego Rivera.

1930:  Accompanied Diego Rivera to the United States as he works on a mural in San Francisco.

1931: Meets portrait photographer Nicholas Murray and they start a romance that will last for nearly a decade.

  Is hospitalized in Detroit after suffering a miscarriage. The paintings she creates at this time are incredibly personal and honest and are markedly different from the self-portraits she had been producing. Choosing to reveal the most intimate details of her life, she develops new graphic imagery imbued with symbolism and meaning.

1934: Separates from Diego for several months after discovering his affair with her sister, Christina.

1937:  First public exhibition in Mexico; the Riveras host Leon and Natalia Trotsky at the Blue House in Coyoacán.

1938:  Actor and art collector Edward G. Robinson purchases four paintings by Kahlo, this is her first major sale; has a sSolo exhibition in New York at Julien Levy Gallery. .

1939:  Exhibits her work in Paris and her painting; the Louvre purchases The Frame for their permanent collection, the first acquisition from a 20th century Mexican artist., The Frame is purchased by the Louvre.  Divorces Diego Rivera.

1940:  Remarries Rivera.

1941: Kahlo is chosen by the Ministry of Education as one of the 25 founders of the Seminar for Mexican Culture, an organization of intellectuals and artists invited to develop and promote Mexican culture.

1942: Kahlo is appointed teacher at the academy La Esmeralda, a new art school of the Ministry of Public Education.

1946:  Awarded National Prize of Arts in Mexico.

1950:  Undergoes seven surgeries on her back and spends 9 months in recovery.

1953:  First solo exhibition in Mexico; her right leg is amputated below the knee due to gangrene.

1954:  Dies at home.

Learn more about:

The Dolores Olmedo Museum

Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo’s Paintings


Frida Kahlo: The Woman Behind the Legend | Iseult Gillespie | For more TED-Ed, visit ed.ted.com