Considered Mexico’s greatest artist, Frida Kahlo achieved international success after her death and is recognized today as a revolutionary artist and feminist icon.
She started painting her first self-portrait after she was severely injured in a bus accident, during her recovery period to occupy herself. She endured great pain after her accident, which happened when she was eighteen years of age. Although, she eventually regained her ability to walk, she suffered several relapses of extreme pain for the rest of her life.
She married the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera with which she shared a tumultuous marriage and common political views.
Identified today with Modern Mexico, she painted using vibrant colors influenced by the indigenous cultures of her country. She displayed her love for traditional and colorful clothing and jewelry by dressing in the Tehuana costumes of Indian maidens wherever she went.
Frieda Kahlo was also influenced by European art movements including Realism, Symbolism and Surrealism.
The main subject of her paintings was herself not because of vanity but because she identified herself with her beloved homeland. And she didn’t shy away from representing her signature bold unibrow and moustache in her self-portraits.
Her health degenerated from 1952 and she died in 1954 soon after turning 47. In her diary, she wrote these tragic words a few days before her death: “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return — Frida”.
Although she endured pain throughout most of her life, Kahlo managed to create at least 140 paintings, amongst which 55 are self-portraits. These paintings symbolically expressed her own physical wounds, psychological pain and sexuality.
Refusing to acknowledge her work as surrealism art, she often stated: “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”