Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, is considered to be one of the most influential and famous female artists in history. “Within the history of modern art there are a few painters who have been able to capture in their works, essential aspects of the Mexican cultural imagination and to develop an aesthetic, grounded in the most intimate concerns. Among those few artists is Frida Kahlo, the creator of a pictorial universe that has been regarded as a singular expression of Mexico’s rich and complex culture. Kahlo expressed a sensibility that was fully engaged with the momentous cultural, political, and social events of the first half of the twentieth century” (Carpenter, 7). She led a very turbulent life and with each event, various identities were created. People have identified Kahlo as “a Mexican, a feminist, a surrealist, a symbolist, a painter, a wife, a lover, an accident survivor, a Communist, a teacher, and as a cultural icon” (The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo). She embraced all of these identities and expressed them in her artwork, thus launching her career as a sensational artist. In fact, much of what we know about her life story is told through her paintings; specifically through her self-portraits. By taking a more in depth look at Frida Kahlo’s biography and her paintings, the reasons that make her such famous artist, cult figure and symbolist will be revealed.
Frida Kahlo was born in La Casa Azul in Coyoácan, Mexico; located just outside of Mexico City, in 1907. Her full name is Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo. Her parents were Wilhelm Kahlo of Hungarian-Jewish descent; who had changed his name to Guillermo Kahlo, and Matilde Calderón y Gonzalez of Spanish and Mexican Indigenous descent ( Frida Kahlo: Brief Biography). She had three sisters, Matilde, Adriana and Cristina Kahlo.Frida's Parents
Despite being born in 1907, Frida “claimed that the year of her birth was 1910 in order to make it coincide with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. Her life developed in parallel with Mexico’s becoming a modern nation” (Carpenter, 16) Along with the change of her birth year, she also changed the spelling of her name from the German “Freida” to the Spanish “Frida”. Frida often depicted her multi-cultural heritage within her paintings, but her style of dress glorified her native Mexican blood. “The persona that she fashioned over time […] is evident in photographs of the artists; in her cameo appearances in murals by her husband, Diego Rivera; [in her paintings of self-portraits]; and in her cultivation of a distinctive style of dress that included wearing Mexican folk apparel, pre-Columbian jewelry, and hairstyles inspired by indigenous cultures” (Carpenter 16).