Art on this Day
On this day, 110 years ago, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico City. Considered as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Kahlo mainly painted self-portraits and was inspired by Mexican popular culture. Her naïve folk-art style explored questions of gender, identity, race, post-colonialism and class. She also had several sources of influence, including Surrealism, Eastern philosophy and medical imagery.
Severely injured at the age of eighteen by a tragic bus accident, she suffered nearly fatal injuries, spending one month at the hospital and two month recovering at home. It is during that time of confinement that young Frida Kahlo started painting. Her life was changed forever by this accident and the portrayal of her body shattered by the pain is a recurring theme in her painting. Art was a way to explore questions of identity and existence. The bus crash also ended her dream of becoming a doctor and gave her life-long sequels, including recurring pains and illnesses.
In June 1928, Frida Kahlo was introduced to Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most successful painter and a notable member of the Mexican Communist Party. They started a relationship despite their 21 years age gap. The couple got married in on August 21, 1929 despite Kahlo’s mother reluctance. Her parents called this marriage a union between “an elephant and a dove”. In 1931, the couple travelled to the United States, where Diego Rivera painted murals for the Luncheon Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and the California School of Fine Arts. The six months spent in San Francisco were productive for Frida Kahlo as she further developed her folk art style. The couple then travelled to New York and Detroit. In 1933, Diego Rivera created a scandal when he painted Vladimir Lenin on the mural he was commissioned for at the Rockefeller Centre, and refused to change it.
In 1934, the couple went back to Mexico, where Frida Kahlo had further health problems, undergoing several medical procedure including the amputation of gangrenous toes and abortions. Her relationship with Rivera became strained as the painter had several affairs, including one with her sister Cristina. After a few episodes of separation, they joined together to help exiled Leon Trotsky and his wife in 1937.
In the 1950s, her health became increasingly poor, and she spent a considerable amount of time at the hospital. Deeply depressed, she was hospitalized in April 1954, and again two months later for pneumonia. She passed away on the 13th of July 1954.
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