Born in Mexico on July 6, 1907, Frida Kahlo was the third of five daughters in the family of Guillermo and Matilda Kahlo. Her father was a photographer of Hungarian Jewish descent and her mother a Spanish and Native American.
As a young child, Frida contracted Polio, a disease that confined her to her bed for nine months and left her with a withered leg. During that time, she created an imaginary friend who would later be reflected in a painting called "The Two Fridas".
In 1922, her father enrolled her at the Preparatoria (National Preparatory School), the most prestigious educational institution in Mexico that chose only thirty-five girls out of two thousand students to attend. There, she met famous artist Diego Rivera who had been commissioned to paint a mural. Although he was married to Lupe Marin at the time, the young and immature Frida made many attempts to get his attention.
At eighteen, Frida sustained serious injuries as passenger on a bus that collided with a trolley. She would continue to be hospitalized throughout her lifetime in order to manage the injuries and pain she sustained in that accident. The specific injuries to her pelvis meant she would never bear a child. During her convalescence in 1926, she took up painting, often creating from her hospital bed. She produced her first self-portrait. Her imagery reflected a preoccupation with love and a connection to the pain in her life.
Frida Kahlo was considered a most desirable woman, and had many affairs with famous people such as movie stars, artists, and politicians of many nationalities. She met Rivera again in 1928, and married him in August of the next year. In 1930, the couple left for San Francisco and then moved to New York for the Rivera retrospective organized by the Museum of Modern Art. A year later, Frida became pregnant and suffered a miscarriage. During her recovery, she painted ‘Miscarriage in Detroit’, the second of her known self-portraits.
When the couple’s relationship became shaky, they both turned to others for comfort and understanding. Diego began an affair with Frida’s younger sister Cristina, while Frida sought affection from both men and women. Their stormy relationship inspired many paintings during that time, which were showcased at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York and Paris.
In 1940, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera divorced. However, it was not the end of their relationship as they later remarried. During the 1940’s, Frida underwent the first of many operations on her spine and crippled foot. She reached a physical crisis in 1950 when she was hospitalized for a year in Mexico City. While her health deteriorated, her art flourished and her popularity soared on an international level. She exhibited in group shows in the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
However, during the late 1940’s, Frida’s paintings became more clumsy and chaotic due to the stress of her ailment. While laid up in the hospital, she was to have her first solo show at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City. This was her big moment and she was not about to miss it; she ordered a bed on which she could be carried in order to attend the event.
Life got much worse for the artist when gangrene settled in her right leg, resulting in an amputation below the knee. With the aid of an artificial limb, she learned to walk again. Frida Kahlo died in her sleep, as the result of an embolism in 1954. Her short and painful life is reflected in the many self-portraits she created throughout her career. A famous personality in her time, she lived a remarkable life of drama and passion right to the end.