Frida Kahlo was more than just meets the brows. The Mexican artist had a life full of pain, romance and above all, powerful artistic talent. But here are a few things you might not have known…
She was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón: she only changed her name to Frieda in 1935, which comes from the German word for peace, ‘Friede’.
As a young child she suffered from polio which caused her right leg to appear much thinner than her left and it would remain that way for the rest of her life. She disguised her impairment by wearing her trademark long, colourful skirts.
When she was 15 she was involved in a life-altering bus accident, leaving her with a broken spinal column, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, 11 fractures in her right leg, her right foot was dislocated and crushed, and her shoulder was out of joint. In the course of her life, she would undergo 30 operations. The consequence of all this was chronic pain. She painted The Broken Column as a memoir of her pain.
From a young age, she admired the work of Diego Rivera and the pair eventually married after their initial meeting in 1927. Their coming together often referred to as the ‘Elephant and Dove’ due to their difference in size.
Kahlo was bisexual and both she and her husband Diego had multiple affairs during the length of their two marriages (divorcing and remarrying in the space of a year).
Frida was well-loved around the world. She traveled to France, she was often in the company of Pablo Picasso, and she even appeared on the cover of French Vogue. In 1953 Frida was to exhibit her first solo show in Mexico. Her health was in decline at the time, and against doctors advice, she attended the exhibition. Mere minutes after guests entered the gallery, Kahlo collapsed and was taken to hospital on a stretcher.
Soon after that infamous exhibition Frida suffered a gangrene infection resulting in her right leg being amputated below the knee. This addition to her already persistent pain led her to become suicidal. She attempted her own life on several occasions and finally on the 3rd of July 1954 Frida passed away ( cause of death remaining unknown but suicide is suspected).
Her last diary entry read, “I hope exit is joyful and I hope never to come back.”