7 Astonishing Facts That Will Change the Way You See Frida Kahlo

The artist arrived at her first solo show in Mexico in an ambulance.

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Frida Kahlo, The Two Fridas (1939).
Photo: via Wikipedia.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Photo: © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Frida Kahlo, Tree of Hope (1946).

Frida Kahlo is having a moment.

There is currently an exhibition of her work up at the Detroit Institute of Arts (see The Striking Absence in the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Blockbuster), as well as the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale; her love letters recently hit the auction block (see Frida Kahlo Love Letters Sell for $137,000—That’s Over $1,000 Per Page!); Throckmorton Fine Art will have a photography show of work inspired by her (see Frida Fever: Iconic Photos of Frida Kahlo by Edward Weston and Others at Throckmorton); the New York Botanical Garden will have a special show that recreates the garden the artist kept in Mexico City (see New York Botanical Garden Will Recreate Frida Kahlo’s Garden); and Michael Hoppen Gallery is set to display photographs by Ishiuchi Miyako of the famed artist’s personal objects.

To celebrate the resonance of her work, we offer up seven facts that will change the way you see Frida Kahlo.

1. She had Polio as a child.
Kahlo struggled with many types of illnesses throughout her life. When she was six years old, she contracted the virus which consequently left her right leg much thinner than her left. She disguised the bottom half of her body in full long colorful skirts (see examples above).

2. The artist was not able to bear children.
Due to a terrible bus accident when she was 18, Kahlo suffered severe injuries, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, 11 fractures to her right leg, and a dislocated shoulder. During the accident, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, causing injury that would make it impossible for her to reproduce.

3. She arrived at her first solo exhibition in an ambulance.
During the early 1950s, Kahlo was in and out of the hospital, having been diagnosed with gangrene in her right foot. In 1953, still bedridden, the artist arrived at her first solo show in Mexico in an ambulance. Her foot later had to be amputated to prevent spread of the gangrene.

4. Her home (Casa Azul) was turned into a museum after her death
The artist was born in the home in 1907 and it had remained in her family throughout her life. Known as Caza Azul, or the Blue House (it’s painted cobalt blue), it was turned into a museum after she died. It now sees over 25,000 visitors monthly. Each of its 10 rooms are organized by theme; one room houses pieces by Kahlo as well as other artists including Paul Klee, Jose Maria Velasco, and Celia Calderon Orozco.

5. Kahlo was bisexual.
Although she was married to artist Diego Rivera, their relationship was tumultuous and they both had extramarital affairs. Kahlo had a well-known tryst with female artist Josephine Baker. Diego Rivera supposedly had an affair with Kahlo’s sister, Cristina.

6. The artist has lived in Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, and Paris.
She followed Rivera to San Francisco and New York City where he traveled for work. In 1939, Kahlo moved to Paris for some time, where she became friends with Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso. During her time in Paris, she painted The Two Fridas (1939), one of her most famous self-portraits that depicted two versions of the artist, holding hands, sitting side by side, with both their hearts connected and exposed.

7. Actress Salma Hayek portrayed the artist in a 2002 biopic directed by Julie Taymor.
Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek played Kahlo in the 2002 Julie Taymor-directed film Frida, a role for which she was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Actress. The film went on to win in the categories of Best Makeup and Best Original Score.


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