Frida Kahlo was a disabled Mexican painter and icon who lived a more dramatic and sad life than most people born in the 1900s. She was known for surreal self-portraits with vibrant colors mirroring her grief and pain.
This article shares five events from the epic moments in Frida’s life, including family, divorce, and the famed bus accident. So read on and be inspired to pursue goals beyond your wildest dreams.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 to photographer father Guillermo Kahlo and Matilde Calderóny González in Coyoacán, a small village on the outskirts of Mexico. Frida said she was born in her family house, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), but this is contrary to official registry records that state Frida was born in her maternal grandmother’s house nearby.
Her father, Guillermo, moved to Mexico from Germany in 1891 after epilepsy caused by accident had ended his university studies. Her mother, Matilde, was born to indigenous Mexican parents in Oaxaca.
Frida’s parents’ loveless marriage produced Matilde, Adriana, and Cristina. She also had stepsisters, Maria Luisa and Margarita from Guillermo’s first marriage, who were raised in a convent.
Frida’s parents were often very sick, coloring her childhood home in constant sadness. She often described her relationship with her religious mother as tense while ascribing the happy moments in her childhood to her father.
Father and Daughter, Comrades in Sickness
Frida Kahlo’s woes began at age six when she developed polio, causing her right leg to remain thinner and shorter than the left. She and her father, Guillermo’s, shared a history of disability, partly because she related better with her father than with her mother.
The other reason why Frida was closer to her father was that he was a photographer, and she often followed him on his photography work to guard the expensive equipment whenever he had an epileptic episode. So both of them, riddled with sickness, understood each other as comrades.
During their time together, Guillermo introduced Frida to photography and sometimes let her color, retouch and develop his photographs. These moments spent in the dark room carrying out meticulous photography work introduced her to life as an artist.
Guillermo also taught her about philosophy, nature, and literature. He encouraged the young child to play sports to help her recover, against the general belief that playing sports wasn’t for women.
Frida- the Rebel
Her polio and father’s epilepsy began her life of misery, but Frida developed a rebellious character and a strong will to live. Her first official stint with the rebellion was expulsion from a German school on the grounds of disobedience.
In 1922, she wished to become a physician and got into National Preparatory School, becoming one of the first 35 female students out of 2000. It was here that Frida developed a liking for Mexican culture, politics, and social justice.
Frida became close with nine other students and formed a group called the Cachuchas. She joined them in putting up plays, challenged conservatism, and debated philosophy and Russian classics. Members of Cachuchas later became leading voices in the Mexican intellectual elite.
Years later, Frida Kahlo joined the Mexican Communist Party, became a founding member of an aid committee for the Republicans in the Spanish civil war, and was even arrested in connection to the assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940.
The Accident that Altered her Life
On September 17, 1925, Frida’s life changed for the worse when she and her boyfriend, Alejandro Gomez Arias, the leader of the Cachuchas group, were involved in a ghastly bus accident.
While returning home from school, they backtracked to retrieve Frida’s forgotten umbrella. Their bus driver attempted to pass an oncoming electric street car, but the tram crashed into the bus, dragging it a few feet away.
While Arias suffered minor injuries and numerous passengers died, Frida was impaled by an iron handrail right through her pelvis, abdomen, and uterus. As a result, she suffered injuries including pelvic bone fractures, a spine broken in three places, a right leg broken in eleven places, a crushed and dislocated right foot, a broken collarbone, and dislocated shoulder.
During her recovery, she began painting self-portraits using an easel her mother provided. From here till death, paintings and famous drawings by Frida Kahlo showed her grief and pain using herself and familiar faces and objects as her subjects.
The accident left a lifelong mark on Frida’s life, cursing her to a life of misery. Complications from the accident caused numerous miscarriages, abortions, and amputation of her lower right leg.
Her Tumultuous Love life
Let’s start with her relationship with Arias, which went unsupported by her parents and humanity. The rise in political instability and violence kept them away from each other, although they kept sending letters till it all ended after the bus accident.
After Frida’s post-recovery reentry into society, she began a romantic relationship with famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, who was 20 years her senior. But, again, her mother was against the marriage, citing their size difference as the reason. Rivera was overweight and tall, while Frida was petite and slim.
On the other hand, her father saw Rivera as a wealthy man who could afford his daughter’s expensive medical bills and support Frida, who couldn’t work in her condition.
While they successfully tied the knot, their marriage fell apart after a string of infidelities from both ends. The first severe blow was Rivera’s affair with Kahlo’s younger sister, Cristina. After that, Frida separated from Rivera, but the couple later reconciled and divorced officially in 1939.
Frida and Rivera remarried later in 1940 and continued having extramarital affairs. She dated men and women but seemed to favor her relationship with men more. Owing to her lesbian relationships, Frida is seen as an icon within the LGBTQ community.
Between polio, sick parents, an estranged mother-daughter relationship, forbidden love, her streak of rebellion, and political advocacy, Frida Kahlo stands out as an artist who fulfilled her artistic purpose despite her tragic life.
Frida Kahlo was an extremely talented artist. Frida’s life-long stint with sickness inspires artists worldwide to chase their dreams and continue creating art despite whatever adversity they may face.