Frida Kahlo (Mexican 1907 – 1954)


Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón de Rivera

July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954

Frida Kahlo has intrigued me since I was a child. She was the second female artist I recognized, after Georgia O’Keefe, when I saw her work in a museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It was her poignant portrayal of pain that shocked me and made me aware of a new aspect of life I hadn’t considered. Of course this was a very marked aspect of herself that she dealt with through out her life.  As a teenager she was in a streetcar accident that fractured her spine, pelvis, collarbones and forced her to wear full torso body casts and be in bed for much of her life. She also suffered in a relationship with Diego Rivera, a famous muralist that was 20 years older that her. They were in love and overcome many obstacles, but not without sadness that you see expressed in her art.

Kahlo in Deigo Rivera Mural, “Panamerican Unity

Frida Kahlo was painted in this mural in 1940 by Diego Rivera. The couple had recently divorced when he came up to San Francisco to participate in Art in Action. During the World Faire held on Treasure Island that year, he painted this fresco which was later transferred to San Francisco City College.  The couple remarried shortly afterwards and they lived in a specially designed house with a bridge between the two separate parts.


This is a painting of Frida’s father who took many pictures of her growing up and encouraged her as an artist. She had a multicultural background. Her father was a Hungarian Jew and her mother was of Mexican and Native Indian decent.


Frida is most famous for her self portraits which give us a glimpse of what her life may have been like at the time. While she didn’t recieve much fame during her life, she is now the subject of a major movie and her image is found everywhere in gift shops and museums around the world.

The Little DeerI especially appreciate her visceral images of nature and was struck by this painting I originally saw in the Kimball Museum at age 8.

She and Diego were very political, housing the soviet refugee Leon Trotsky. They actively held communist party meetings in there home and had a very lively social life. In 1953 she had her first and only Solo Exposition in Mexico. Doctors orders were to stay in bed so she had her bed delivered in an ambulance so she could attend the opening.

“I suffered two grave accidents in my life…One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

-Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)