Reina With A Paintbrush: Frida Kahlo

I have loved Frida Kahlo for a very long time; when I was twelve, I even dressed up as Frida for Halloween. But it wasn’t until I read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (it’s a great book, you should read it!) that I became obsessed.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, 1940, Oil on masonite, 59,5 x 40 cm, Private Collection. Licensed Replica: © Banco de México Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008

She is, of course, most famous for being an incredible painter and for being married to the equally-famous muralist Diego Rivera. Personally, having seen both of their art in real life, I must say that Frida’s work is my favorite. Then again, I am biased because I love her life’s story as much as I love her work.

There are so many things to admire about Frida Kahlo. The majority of her paintings were self portraits, a sort of visual diary to cope with the traumas in her life. She experienced a lot of pain: when she was six she contracted polio, which left her with a lifelong limp; when she was 18, she was in a bus crash in which she was impaled by a steel handrail; had several miscarriages as a result of the bus accident; was cheated on by her husband, Diego Rivera, with her sister Cristina; and dealt with back pain for her whole life.

Despite her pain, or perhaps because of it, she had an incredible free spirit and ideas about beauty. I admire her pride in her untrimmed facial hair and devotion to leading an independent life. Though being married to Diego Rivera (twice), they lived in separate but connected homes. Both had various affairs; Frida had affairs with both women and men, including Leon Trotsky who stayed at her house for a time while in exile.

In any case, her life is fascinating and I encourage you to read more about her (or watch a documentary about her). And in the meantime, you should check out more of her work:

Without Hope, 1945 by Frida Kahlo, painted during the time when she had no appetite due to various operations and was force fed food.

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932. This is one of my favorites.

Frida Kahlo, Roots, 1943.

Frida Kahlo, Two Nudes in a Forest, 1939. This painting was originally titled “The Earth Itself” and was a gift to a lover, actress Dolores Del Rio.

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