Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City, but she often told people she was born in 1910, 3 years after her actual birth, so that people would directly associate her with the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. Kahlo became an embodiment of Mexican culture, especially indigenous culture, but she herself wasn't fully Mexican: her father was born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo in Germany, either of Jewish and Hungarian ancestry, as Frida claimed, or from a long line of German Lutherans, as some new research argues. Frida's mother, Matilde Calderon,, was of indigenous Mexican and Spanish descent.
Frida Kahlo was a central figure in the Neomexicanismo Art Movement in Mexico which emerged in the 1970s. Her art has been called folk art due to traditional elements and some call it Surrealist though Kahlo herself said, "They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality." In May 2006, her self-portrait Roots sold for US$5.6 million dollars setting an auction record for a Latin American piece of art.
The 500 Mexican peso bill is unique in that it contains two portraits, one on each side. The duo are the famous couple, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, two of the country's most celebrated artists and personalities. The 500 peso bill was released to mark the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and contains the Diego Rivera quote written in tiny script:
It has been said that the revolution does not need art, but that art needs the revolution. That is not true. The revolution needs revolutionary art. ”
On September 17th 1925 Frida and her friend Alex was riding in a bus when it crashed into a street trolley car. Recuperation after the bus accident took over a year, during which time Kahlo gave up her pre-med program and began painting. Her father, an artist, lent her his oil pants and brushes, while her mom commissioned a special easel, so that Kahlo could paint in her hospital bed, and had a mirror placed in the canopy, enabling Kahlo's self-portraiture.
In her career, Frida Kahlo created 143 paintings out of which 55 are self-portraits. Kahlo said, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." Her self portraits often include interpretations of physical and psychological wounds. Frida Kahlo's self-portraits are considered among the finest ever created. Her most famous self-portrait is perhaps Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
In 1939, the Louvre bought Kahlo's The Frame, making it the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to be purchased by an internationally renowned museum. Despite such an accomplishment, Kahlo was still known for most of her life, and the 20th-century, as the wife of Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929. Since the 1980s, though, Kahlo has been known for her own merit. Several biographies have been written and movies about her life have been made. Her former home, La Casa Azul, is now a museum. The largest exhibit ever of her paintings, held last summer for the 100th anniversary of her birth, broke all attendance records at Mexico's Museum of the Fine Arts Palace, although it was only open for 2 months.
Kahlo's marriage with Rivera was tumultuous with both having multiple affairs. Frida had affairs with both men and women. Rivera even had an affair with Kahlo's younger sister Cristina which infuriated Kahlo. They divorced in 1939 but remarried a year later. Although their second marriage was as troubled as the first, Kahlo remained married to Rivera till her death.
The founder of Red Army, the famous Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky came to Mexico to receive political asylum from the Soviet Union. He first stayed with Rivera and later had an affair with Kahlo. Kahlo created a painting titled Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky to commemorate her brief affair.
Her complex 1945 painting, Moses, presents the sun as "the centre of all religions." The top portion of the painting contains gods; the middle section is full of "heroes" like Alexander the Great, Martin Luther, Napoleon, and - most interestingly - Hitler, whom Kahlo called "the lost child." The bottom of the painting is filled with the masses and scenes relating to the process of evolution. In the middle is the infant Moses, with the third eye of wisdom. The painting was inspired by the book Moses and Monotheism by Sigmund Freud, which makes a link between Ancient Egyptian beliefs, Moses, and the origins of monotheistic religion.
Kahlo died 20 days after her 47th birthday on July 26, 1954. A few days before her death, she wrote in her diary: "I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return - Frida". Kahlo was moderately successful during her lifetime and it was only several years after her death that her work became widely acclaimed. During her lifetime she was mainly known in Mexico as Rivera's wife, now she is popular worldwide and Rivera is known as her husband.
Numerous articles, books and documentaries have been made about Kahlo's life and art, including the bestseller Frida: The Biography of Frida Kahlo (1983) by Hayden Herrera. The movie 'Frida, naturaleza viva' was released in 1983 and was a huge success. In 2002 another biographical film 'Frida', in which Salma Hayek plays her role, grossed over $US 50 million and won two Academy Awards.