Frida Kahlo and her muralist husband Diego Rivera are two of the most famous and fascinating artists of the 20th Century.
Born on July 6, 1907, in Coyocoán, Mexico City, Frida Kahlo contracted polio at the age of six and had a nearly fatal bus accident at the age of 18.
She spent over a year in bed recovering from fractures to her spine, pelvis, collarbone and ribs, shoulder and foot injuries. She endured more than 30 operations in her lifetime.
During her recovery, she started painting. Her paintings, mostly self-portraits and still life, were deliberately naïve, and filled with the colours and forms of Mexican folk art.
At 22 Frida married the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Their passionate relationship survived infidelities, the pressures of careers, divorce, remarriage, Frida’s bi-sexual affairs, her poor health and her inability to have children.
Her health issues became nearly all-consuming in 1950. After being diagnosed with gangrene in her right foot, Frida spent nine months in the hospital and had several operations during this time. She continued to paint and support political causes despite having limited mobility.
In 1953, when Frida had her first solo exhibition in Mexico, a local critic explained why she was so different from her contemporaries:
“It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography.”
At the time of her exhibition opening, Frida’s health was such that doctors told her that she couldn’t leave her bed. She insisted that she was going to attend her opening, and with determination and courage she did. She arrived in an ambulance and her bed in the back of a truck. She was placed in her bed and four men carried her into the waiting guests. Sadly, Frida’s joy was dampened a few months later when part of her right leg was amputated to stop the spread of gangrene.
Deeply depressed, Frida was hospitalised again in April 1954 because of poor health, and a suicide attempt. She returned to the hospital two months later with bronchial pneumonia. No matter her physical condition, Frida did not let that stand in the way of her political activism.
Unfortunately, about a week after her 47th birthday, Frida died on July 13, 1954 at her beloved Blue House. There has been some speculation regarding the nature of her death. It was reported to be caused by a pulmonary embolism, but there have also been stories about a possible suicide.
Today, more than half a century after her death, her paintings fetch more money than any other female artist.