Frida Kahlo is one of the most revered artists to come from 20th century Mexico. Her distinctive look and style are instantly recognizable and she has been called a diva, a muse and a feminist icon.
A force of nature perhaps best summed up by an art critic who saw one of her very first exhibitions and said: ‘It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography.’
To mark the anniversary of the birth of this great bisexual painter, GSN is taking you through some of the most inspiring and interesting facts about her.
She knew how to stand out in a crowd. From a young age she was ambitious, intelligent and vastly different from her three sisters. The young Kahlo began experimenting with androgyny and cross dressing so, in this photo, a teenage Frida turns up to a family portrait dressed in a man’s suit.
She fought through a great deal of adversity during her life. At the age of six she contracted polio, when she was 18 she was badly injured in a bus crash and later in life she suffered several miscarriages. Each of these tragedies she recorded in her diary and even painted some of the scenes.
Kahlo never lost her passion for life. She was well known as an extremely quick witted and sharp woman, always the centre of attention wherever she was. Her strength of character has made her an emblem of hope and determination for many. In this painting called ‘Moses’ from 1945, one can see Kahlo’s fascination with life, religion and nature.
Art historians usually focus on her relationship with fellow Mexican painter Diego Rivera (whom she married, divorced and then married again) and her affair with Communist leader Leon Trotsky. But Kahlo was bisexual, and made no secret of her affairs and relationships with women as well as men. Kahlo was linked with African American entertainer Josephine Baker, American painter Georgia O’Keeffee and Mexican singer Chavela Vargas.
Photographers were captivated by her beauty. She was a muse to photographer Nickolas Murray who loved to take her picture in her sumptuous Mexican clothes. Contemporary photographers and stylists have attempted to emulate her look in fashion shoots like the one below, taken from Vogue Mexico of the model Renata Sozzi by Michael Filonow.
Her sense of style inspires the fashion world. Designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier have been inspired by Kahlo’s imitable style. For his spring/summer 1998 collection, Gaultier’s models walked down a runway resembling a Mexican marketplace with Frida-style hair ribbons, red lips and thick eyebrows.
Her work has been exhibited in art galleries all over the world, her diary has been published and many authors have written biographies of her extraordinary life. In 2002, a Hollywood biopic was made of her life starring Salma Hayek.