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Frida Kahlo Paintings

Frida Kahlo contracted polio at the young age of six she survived the disease but was left with a limp. She planned to become a doctor but a terrible accident in 1925 changed her life. She was in a bus accident which left her seriously injured suffering from damage to her spine, pelvis, collarbone, and right leg.

During her recuperation from the near fatal bus accident Frida began to paint with oils. Other than a few high school art classes Frida received no formal art training. Her paintings were mostly self-portraits and still lifes that were brightly colored and portrayed flattened forms which reflected the Mexican folk art styles of other artists that she admired. As she developed her painting skills her own unique style began to emerge. Frida experimented with a number of different styles and designs many of which shocked the world of art with their surrealist style and sexual references.

Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress, was Frida’s first self-portrait, created in 1926, the painting follows the style of Mexican portrait painters of the 19th century. 19th Century Mexican Portraits also frequently used a bandrole inscribed at the top or bottom of a painting to mark the name of the portrayed sitter or to explain the painting. Frida borrowed this technique in several of her paintings such as Self-Portrait dedicated to Dr. Eloesser, Portrait of Eva Frederick, and Frida and Diego Rivera.

At the age of 21 Frida met and fell in love with muralist Diego Rivera. The two felt they had much in common with a love of art as well as their political views and national loyalty the two were married in August, 1929. It was a stormy relationship filled with infidelity, divorce and remarriage. Frida recorded the ups and downs of the relationship in her artwork. The Two Fridas was painted shortly after her divorce from Diego and shows her process of emotions over the separation.

Her paintings were filled with symbolism and typically related to specific emotional experiences in her life. Frida revealed the struggles with her health in paintings such as The Broken Column which was painted at a time that her health was failing and she was forced to wear a steel corset. The Wounded Deer was painted following an operation on her spine that she had hoped would free her from her pain. Her paintings were full of vivid colors and realistic details.

In 1938 Surrealist artist Andre Breton visited Mexico and seeing Frida’s paintings declared her a self-made Surrealist. Frida opposed the label of a Surrealist feeling that her paintings were not dreams but were her own realities. Frida did however, see advantages to being labeled a Surrealist and it was Breton who helped to secure her first showing at an exhibition.

During her life Frida had three exhibitions of her work. The first exhibition was in New York at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1938, the next in 1939 in Paris and the final show was in her beloved Mexico in 1953. Even with the exhibitions Frida was not well known outside the art world. However, beginning in the 1980s feminist art historians, as well as others, began producing books about Frida. By the 1990s Frida Kahlo had become a feminist icon with articles and books written about her as well as a number of plays and films including three documentaries and a full length feature film.

Today Frida is still one of the most celebrated artists. She painted over sixty self-portraits as well as a number of other paintings, mostly still lives and portraits of friends.