Her Story: Frida Kahlo

Addison as Frida Kahlo
Addison as
Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón (1907-1954) was considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists. She is known most famously for her self-portrait work and is admired as a feminist icon.

Kahlo was born to photographer Guillermo Kahlo (1871–1941) and Matilde Calderón y González (1876–1932) from Oaxaca, Mexico. She had two older sister and one younger sister. At age 6, Kahlo contracted polio, the disease impacted her right leg and left her permanently disabled.

Because of her illness when she was a child, she started school later than her peers. However, she persisted and in 1922, Kahlo was accepted to an elite preparatory school. She studied natural sciences with the dream of becoming a doctor. The school had recently begun admitting women when Kahlo was accepted. At the time there were only 35 girls out of 2,000 students. She excelled academically and was a voracious reader. Kahlo became passionate about Mexican culture, political activism and social justice.

In 1925 her dreams were shattered after a nearly fatal bus accident on her way home from school. She spent months in the hospital and at home recovering from accident, but it left her with permanent injuries and a lifetime of pain and illness. It was during this time that Kahlo explored her abilities and interest as a painter, from her recovery bed with a special easel. 

She primary painted self-portraits with a mirror set up in her room that she could see from her bed. She would also paint portraits of her sisters and friends when they came to sit with her. Her paintings explored issues of identity, gender, class and race. Her style mixed realism with fantasy and is often described as surrealist. 

Kahlo later became politically active and married fellow artist Diego Rivera in 1929. One of the most famous paintings she made Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931), was painted during the couples six month stay in San Francisco. Although she presented herself as Rivera’s wife, rather than an artist, Kahlo had her first exhibition at Palace of the Legion of Honor.

The history, health, relationships, as well as the life and death of Kahlo, were extremely complicated. The same is true of the rise of Kahlo’s popularity in modern culture. She Made History with her story of perseverance, struggle, survival, talent and unique perspective.

Portrait of Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo

Link to Learn:

Frida Kahlo

Biography of Frida Kahlo

About The Author


Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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