Who’s Frida Khalo?
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who lived passionately and unapologetically with disability. These included chronic pain and a crippled leg due to a motorized vehicle accident she endured in her teens.
Still, she lived an accomplished life.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderon was born in the Blue House in Coyoacan, Mexico on July 6th, 1907.
As a result of her condition, she was often prescribed bed rest and endured prolonged periods of isolation in her bedroom.
It was here that she painted many of her masterful works of art with the support of her family and beloved Diego Rivera.
Frida married the love of her life, Diego Rivera, on August 21, 1929, when she was only 22 years old. He was 20 years her senior and almost twice as heavy as she, making them quite the striking couple. (He weighed around 300lbs, whereas she was about 98lbs) (worldhistoryproject.org)
She died the night of July 2nd, 1954 at the age of 47 in the Blue House. The cause, according to her death certificate, was pulmonary thrombosis.
My Introduction To Frida Khalo
I first discovered Frida’s work after watching the 2002 movie Frida, with Salma Hayek. (I highly recommend it, by the way.) It’s cinematic, thoughtful, beautiful, and provocative.
Because of my love for this movie, I began studying Frida’s art, which I initially found overwhelming in its imagery.
The more I study it, though, the more I love it because of its vulnerability and because of the emotions it evokes within.
As an artist, studying Frida’s work and her life’s story has awoken in me a need to create pieces that resonate and inspire others with a sense of joy and a love for life.
That is the purpose of this post, which will be updated periodically.
Here, I’ll cover interesting facts and highlights of Frida’s life as well as how she’s inspired my design process as I create a Frida-inspired jewelry collection.
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Frida Kahlo's Childhood And Creating A Frida-Inspired Jewelry Collection (Video)
When's Frida Kahlo’s Birthday?
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo Calderon was born in the Blue House in Coyocan, Mexico, on July 6th, 1910.
So she claimed.
Raquel Tibol, a renowned Mexican art critic and art historian, met and interviewed Frida Kahlo the year before Frida Kahlo’s death. Out of this incredible opportunity, Tibol wrote a fantastic book, which Elinor Randall translated, Frida Kahlo: An open life.
Here she writes:
So why did Frida change her birthday?
To feel younger & prettier? No. Not at all.
Passionate & unapologetic, it’s speculated that she did so to align herself with the ideas of liberation and reform that encompassed the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910.
Who’s Frida Kahlo’s Father? Carl Wilhelm Kahlo, a.k.a. Guillermo Kahlo
Carl Wilhelm Kahlo was born on October 26th, 1871, in Germany.
Enthusiastically, Carl Kahlo moved to Mexico in 1891 at the age of 19 with little more than the clothes he wore.
Initially, he worked as an accountant. Within a short timeframe, he secured enough financial and social security to change his first name to “Guillermo.”
By 1894, he married his first wife, a Mexican woman who died while giving birth to her second daughter.
On the evening of her death, he met his second wife, Frida’s mother, Matilde Calderon, a devout & pious Catholic.
Per Matilde’s request, Guillermo Kahlo sent his two daughters from his first marriage to a convent, and he also switched his occupation to that of a photographer. The same occupation as Matilde’s father.
Of his career as a photographer, Rainer Huhle wrote an informative article titled More than Frida’s Father. Guillermo Kahlo as a pioneer of industrial and architectural photography in Mexico, where he explains how Guillermo flourished as a photographer.
He explains that as an immigrant, Guillermo was able to view his surroundings differently than most and he was able to capture them with a fresh perspective.
Guillermo Kahlo soon proved to have an eye for the masterful composition of architectural and interior photographs and quickly became one of the most sought-after photographers in modern Mexico.
He used a large-format camera which he could only carry through the city and county aided by an assistant – usually Frida. He used this camera to capture carefully composed scenes in long exposure shots, resulting in great depth of field.
In 1904, the government commissioned him to photograph all of the essential national monuments to mark the centenary of Mexican Independence in 1910.
Unfortunately for Guillermo Kahlo, Porfirio Diaz, the dictatorial President of Mexico who commissioned his work, was forced to resign in 1911, putting him and his family in financial strain.
In his last years, Diego Rivera would be of great assistance to him and his family as they continued to live in the Blue House.
Frida Kahlo’s Childhood & Bout With Polio
Of all of Guillermo Kahlo’s daughters – he had a total of 6, 2 from his first marriage and four with Frida’s mother, Matilde – Frida was his favorite.
She was a lively cheeky child.
Of her, he would say, “Frida is my most intelligent daughter… She’s most like me.” (Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera by Isabel Alantara & Sandra Egnolff, page 9)
Sadly, Frida contracted polio at six years old, which led her to be bedridden for nine months in excruciating pain.
This was her first period in isolation due to medical reasons.
Polio is a disabling & life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis.
It was the poliovirus that left Frida’s right leg deformed.
Of this period of isolation, she recounts:
This is only part one of this post where I attempt to answer the question – Who’s Frida Kahlo?
I will be diving deeper into her work, her relationship with Diego, her travels, and more at a later date.
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If you’d like a full list of all the resources used for this post, please click here.