Compiled by: Jack Foley
BORN in Mexico City on July 6, 1907, Frida Kahlo led a life affected
by ill health from an early age. At six, she was stricken with
polio, which caused her right leg to appear much thinner than
the other. It remained that way permanently.
Then in September 1925, she was involved in the debilitating accident
which changed her life when the bus she was travelling on with
longtime friend, Alejandro Gomez, collided with a tram, killing
several people and seriously injuring many others.
Frida was found, half naked, among the wreckage, bathed in blood
and gold dust, and impaled on a metal rod. Her spinal column,
ribs, pelvis and collarbone were shattered, her right foot was
crushed and her right leg, crippled years earlier by polio, was
broken in a dozen places.
A metal rod entered through her left hip and exited through her
vagina, causing a deep abdominal wound and leaving her unable
to have children.
Months of painful, expensive surgery followed. Her physical convalescence
included several immobilizing plaster casts and corsets, traction
and often barbaric experimental operations.
But much of Fridas misery came from the severe isolation
and loneliness of her devastating condition and she passed her
time pouring out her feelings through painting.
Her photographer father, Guillermo, and mother, Matilde, sold
practically all they owned to finance the countless operations
but, despite their dire financial situation, they did all they
could to support Fridas newfound interest in painting, and
presented her with a specially constructed easel, as well as fitting
her canopy bed with a mirror, so she could be her own model.
Once she was able to walk again, Frida decided to visit the renowned
artist, Diego Rivera, for a professional critique. The meeting
has been credited as the defining moment in both their lives.
For Frida, Diegos encouragement was paramount in her artistic
evolution even though, in later life, she was quoted as saying:
"I have suffered two big accidents in my life, one in which
a streetcar ran over me; the other being Diego."
Nevertheless, the two married in Coyoacan on August 21, 1929,
in spite of disapproval from her mother, who saw Diegos
21-year age difference, his well-known philandering and his obesity
In 1930, Diego was commissioned to paint murals in America and
travelled to San Francisco, Detroit and New York. During this
trip, Frida discovered she was pregnant and decided to risk having
the baby, although she was later to suffer a miscarriage.
It was during this time, when she longed to return to Mexico,
that she produced the paintings, Henry Ford Hospital, Self
Portrait on the Borderline between Mexico and the United States
and My Dress Hangs There (New York).
Frida did return, briefly, to Mexico, following the death of her
mother, only to find her sister had fallen into a state of depression,
having left her husband.
Though she wanted to stay in Mexico, she was compelled to return
to New York, where Diego was waging a world-renowned battle with
Nelson Rockefeller, over whether to remove a portrait of Lenin
from a mural in the Rockefeller Centre.
When Diego refused, he was fired and the mural was destroyed.
Diego and Frida returned to Mexico in December 1933 and moved
into a house in San Angel. The new home comprised twin houses,
joined by a bridge. But Diegos depression and anger over
America got worse and he began an affair with Fridas sister,
the discovery of which resulted in separation.
Diego eventually returned to Frida, however, asking her to help
make a home for exiled Russian leader, Leon Trotsky, in January
1937. Trotsky remained with them for two years, during which time
he had an affair with Frida.
His departure prompted Frida to strike out on her own and she
eventually travelled to Paris, when the Louvre purchased one of
her paintings, Self-Portrait (The Frame) 1938. It was the
first painting of any Latin American artist to hang in the French
However, Parisian life bored her and she again longed for a return
to Mexico and to Diego, only to find that he wanted a divorce.
As a result, Fridas health deteriorated rapidly but she
painted what many consider to be her finest works, including The
Two Fridas (1939), The Dream or The Bed (1940) and
Two Nudes In the Forest (1940).
When Trotsky was assassinated, Frida was questioned by police,
and her poor health worsened. Her toes gangrened and were amputated.
She underwent more operations on her back, developing kidney infections
and other complications.
She was hung upside down and corseted in steel. At each turn,
she focused on her painting.
Diego eventually returned with a proposal of re-marriage and
the two did so in December 1940. Frida then returned to her parents
Pink House and painted it cobalt blue, renaming it the Blue House,
as it is known today.
More operations and hospitalisation followed, but Diego remained
with her during a nine-month hospitalisation in 1950 and the amputation
of her right leg in 1953.
Finally, on the night of July 12, 1954, ill with pneumonia, Frida
called Diego to her bedside and presented him with his 25-year
anniversary gift - an antique ring - although the landmark event
was still two weeks away. She passed away in her sleep that night,
a week after her 47th birthday.