Frida Kahlo- surrealist painter, cross- dresser, enthusiastic drinker and lover, inspiration for one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, Diego Rivera, icon, legend, communist activist and I know the list can go on. It is amazing how someone who only lived 47 years and whose life was a collection of operations and sickness could be such an active person. Yet, she was and was to become one of the most representative and original figure of the 20th century.
Background Information- biography and reputation
Frida Kahlo was born on the 6th of July 1907 in Ciudad de Mexico as the third daughter of William Kahlo and Matilda Calderon. Her complete name was Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calder n. Her life was struck by misery ever since the beginning: in 1913, when she was six years old, she contracted poliomyelitis and her right leg was affected, appearing much thinner than the other throughout her life.
She entered high school at the National Preparatory School, where she soon turned out to be the leader of a prank- oriented group of rebel teenagers. It was here that she came in contact with her future husband and soul mate, Diego Rivera, perhaps the greatest Mexican muralist who, at that time, was commissioned to paint a mural in the school auditorium. In the book, the meeting is also based on somewhat of a prank: the teens are spying on Rivera who notices them and chases them around in the auditorium. Frida is the only one turning around to shoot him a line.
When she was 18, Frida would be involved in a car accident that would change her life. The bus she was riding on collided and left her with several serious injuries: "a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and 11 fractures in her right leg." The accident would be a milestone in her life and would determine her handicapped condition throughout her life, with most certain influences on her paintings and art.
Indeed, after not being able to move for a month and after being encased in a plaster cast, Frida began to paint in bed, mainly because she was getting bored. Butterflies, portraits, landscapes- they all suggested an incipient talent and a great perspective.
Her recovery was considered a miracle and the fact that she could walk again even more so. However, the accident had left serious marks and physical pain and misfortunes would dominate much of her later life. Her spirit made her live through everything: as she was once saying, she held the record for the most operations. It seems that she underwent around thirty operations in her lifetime. Physical suffering made her turn to subsidiary means of easing pain, like alcohol and drugs, of which she abused during her life.
On the other hand, physical suffering meant that a definite awakening of her spiritual side. Similar to many physically handicapped artists (Toulouse- Lautrec come to mind), the artistic side came to being and, as she began painting, images would come in succession in her mind and in paintings.
Having recovered from the accident, she was introduced to the artistic life of Mexico. This included, at the time, Tina Modotti (photographer and artist) and especially Diego Rivera, who enjoyed fame at that time as the greatest Mexican muralist. Entering the artistic life of Mexico also meant a first contact with politics, as most of the artists were communist activists, at a time when Communism still had a certain glamour about it and when people still believed that the actual purpose was that of building an equalitarian society.
She married Diego on the 21st of August 1929 and their love story would become emblematic for the 20th century, with lots of love, affairs artistic and creative ties and hate. They were divorced by 1940, however, their separation lasted only one year. Diego's affairs included one with Frida's sister, which obviously left marks on her. However, it is important to note that, as a painter and artist, Diego simply loved the Woman, as an artistic symbol, and that his affairs were generally directed that way. He had admitted several times that Frida was his only soul mate, love of his life and the one that guided his artistic career and vision.
Her marriage misfortunes and a painful miscarriage became additional forms of inspiration for her work, in which she portrayed and expressed the entire anger that dominated her.
Acknowledged as a representative artist of the time, Frida traveled to Europe where she met and dined with Picasso and appeared on the cover of the French edition of Vogue. She was considered one of the most talented painters in the generation, however, it is interesting to note that she only had one true exhibition for her works and this happened in 1953. Frida's physical condition had been worsening over time and she was advised not to attend. However, she did and made a show out of it, appearing at the exhibition carried in her own bed. The exhibition was a huge success, but more misfortunes were to come and, eventually, death itself.
The very same year she had her right leg amputated above the knee, because of a developing gangrene, and she became more depressed and suicidal. She died on the 13th of July 1954. Even if an autopsy was never performed, suicide was never excluded and, indeed, it would have been the greatest way out.
Synopsis of Hayden Herrera's "Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo"
The biography of Frida Kahlo, as written by hayden Herrera, is perhaps one of the most interesting and complete stories about someone's life that has ever been written in history.
Combining strict biographical facts with descriptions of Kahlo's paintings, by relating them to a certain fact or happening in the artist's life, and with excerpts from her diary, the book succeeds in creating an almost complete picture of Frida's existence. Her life is perhaps best resumed by something a friend had said about her: "she is a woman who lived dying." I want to briefly discuss this collocation, because, in my opinion, it gives full meaning and explanation of Frida's life.
First of all, notice the spectacular antithesis of the statement. Obviously, life and death, living and dying, are two opposite terms and this makes the statement ever more interesting and somewhat ambiguous. Perhaps only by looking at and reading about Frida's life do we get a full image of what this means.
Indeed, her physical pain and misfortunes, her inability to have children as she so much desired and her stormy relationship with Diego River would have been enough to kill anybody and make anybody's life as close to dying as this could be. One encountering all her pain could only have lived dying.
However, she was so very much ALIVE, alive in its supreme form. She had a joy of living and of life itself and she utterly enjoyed herself throughout her entire life. In my opinion, I think this is what the statement best expresses and explains: her immense enjoyment of life and her immense joy to live. Perhaps not necessarily "a will to overcome" as some have chosen to explain this, but the will to make the best of it no matter what the circumstances were.
The author is keen in portraying every part of her life, with perhaps only a slight shadow with regards to her political activity. Indeed, she is recognized as a Communist and is member of the Communist Party, however, we never quite seem to understand whether she has true Communist convictions or whether being a Communist is something the society and circle of friends she lived around dragged her into. This seems to be a time in Mexico when everybody has Communist or, at least Leftist beliefs. Was she a Communist? I would rather believe that she was not necessarily a convinced Communist, but rather more a sympathizer.
As for her love life, neither her physical inabilities, nor her love for Diego stopped her from having the most diverse set of lovers, both men and women. Her bisexuality seems to be no story and she was believed to have had relations and affairs with the famous actresses Dolores Del Rio and Paulette Goddard, as well as with Georgia O'Keeffe. Indeed, she said about the latter "O'Keefe was in the hospital for three months, she went to Bermuda for a rest. She didn't make love to me that time, I think on account of her weakness. Too bad," which seems to say everything about her sexual orientations don't think that I would be wrong to assert that, according to Herrera's book, there are two main pillars in Frida's life, all determined by a somewhat dark and malefic force, her physical suffering. I am referring, of course, to her relationship with Diego Rivera and her painting.
Her painting is definitely determined by her physical suffering. As most surrealists do (even if, it is interesting…