Frida Kahlo

(1907—1954) Mexican painter

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(b Mexico City, 6 July 1907; d Mexico City, 13 July 1954).

Mexican painter. In 1929, when she was still at school, she suffered appalling injuries in a traffic accident, leaving her a permanent semi-invalid, often in severe pain. During her convalescence she began painting portraits of herself and others. She remained her own favourite model and her art was usually directly autobiographical. In 1928 she married Mexico's most famous artist, Diego Rivera, who was twice her age and twice her size. Their relationship was often strained, but it lasted to her death, through various separations, divorce and remarriage (1939–40), and infidelities on both sides (one of her lovers was Leon Trotsky, who was assassinated in 1940 while living in Mexico City). Kahlo was mainly self-taught as a painter. She was influenced by Rivera, but more by Mexican folk art, and her work has a colourful, almost naive vigour, tinged with Surrealist fantasy. Her paintings of her own physical and psychic pain are narcissistic and nightmarish, but also—like her personality—fiery and flamboyant. They were widely shown in Mexico and she had successful exhibitions in Paris and New York in 1938 and 1939 respectively, but during her lifetime she was overshadowed by her husband. Since her death, however, her fame has grown and she has become something of a feminist heroine, admired for her refusal to let great physical suffering crush her spirit or interfere with her art and her left-wing political activities. Her house in the suburb of Coyoacán, Mexico City, was opened as a museum dedicated to her in 1958.

Subjects: Art.

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