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Artists Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo Photo

Frida Kahlo

Mexican Painter

Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Magic Realism, Proto-Feminist Artists

Born: July 6, 1907 - Coyoacan, Mexico

Died: July 13, 1954 - Coyoacan, Mexico

Frida Kahlo Timeline

Quotes

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone... because I am the subject I know best."
Frida Kahlo
"I've done my paintings well... and they have a message of pain in them, but I think they'll interest a few people. They're not revolutionary, so why do I keep on believing they're combative?"
Frida Kahlo
"They thought I was a Surrealist but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality."
Frida Kahlo
"I really don't know whether my paintings are Surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the most honest expression of myself, taking no account of the opinions and prejudices of others."
Frida Kahlo
"There is nothing more precious than laughter and scorn. Strength lies in laughing and letting oneself go. In being cruel and superficial. Tragedy is the most ridiculous feature of 'Man', yet I am sure that animals, though they 'suffer', do not parade their grief in 'theatres' either open or 'closed'."
Frida Kahlo
"My head is full of microscopic spiders, and innumerable tiny vermin... I can't get anything straight inside the big realité without moving directly onto a collision course; either I have to hang my clothes from thin air, or I have to bring distant things perilously, fatally close. You'll sort it out with your ruler and compass."
Frida Kahlo
"Respond to my love with a mighty epistle, that will cheer the saddened heart that beats for you from here, louder than you could ever imagine. Just listen to it: TIC-TAC TIC-TAC TIC-TAC TIC-TAC! Literature is hopeless at portraying things, at conveying the full volume of inner noises, so it's not my fault if instead of my heart you hear only a broken clock."
Frida Kahlo
"I am not sick... I am broken... but I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint."
Frida Kahlo
"I have suffered two grave accidents in my life, one in which a streetcar knocked me down.. The other accident is Diego."
Frida Kahlo
"I hope the Leaving is joyful - and I hope Never to return"
Frida Kahlo

"Feet what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?"

Frida Kahlo Signature

Synopsis

Small pins pierce Kahlo's skin to reveal that she still 'hurts' following illness and accident, whilst a signature tear signifies her ongoing battle with the related psychological overflow. Frida Kahlo typically uses the visual symbolism of physical pain in a long-standing attempt to better understand emotional suffering. Prior to Kahlo's efforts, the language of loss, death, and selfhood, had been relatively well investigated by some male artists (including Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, and Edvard Munch), but had not yet been significantly dissected by a woman. Indeed not only did Kahlo enter into an existing language, but she also expanded it and made it her own. By literally exposing interior organs, and depicting her own body in a bleeding and broken state, Kahlo opened up our insides to help explain human behaviors on the outside. She gathered together motifs that would repeat throughout her career, including ribbons, hair, and personal animals, and in turn created a new and articulate means to discuss the most complex aspects of female identity. As not only a 'great artist' but also a figure worthy of our devotion, Kahlo's iconic face provides everlasting trauma support and she has influence that cannot be underestimated.

Key Ideas

Kahlo made it legitimate for women to outwardly display their pains and frustrations and to thus make steps towards making sense of and understanding them. It became crucial for women artists to have a female role model and this is the gift of Frida Kahlo.
As an important question for many Surrealists, Kahlo too considers: What is Woman? Following repeated miscarriage, she asks to what extent does motherhood or the absence of this impact on female identity. She alters the meaning of maternal subjectivity irreversibly. It becomes clear through umbilical symbolism (often shown by ribbons) that Kahlo is connected to all that surrounds her, and that she is still a 'mother' without children.
Finding herself often alone, she worked obsessively with self-portraiture. Her reflection fuelled an unflinching interest in identity. She was particularly interested in her mixed German-Mexican ancestry, as well as in her divided roles as artist, lover, and wife.
Kahlo uses religious symbolism throughout her oeuvre. She appears as the Madonna holding her 'animal babies', and becomes the Virgin Mary as she cradles her husband and famous national painter Diego Rivera. She identifies with Saint Sebastian, and even fittingly appears as the martyred Christ. She positions herself as a prophet when she takes to head of the table in her Last Supper style painting, and her accident when impaled on a metal bar (and covered in gold dust when lying injured) recalls the crucifixion and suggests her own holiness.
Women prior to Kahlo who had attempted to communicate the wildest and deepest of emotions were often labeled hysterical or condemned insane - while men were alinged with the 'melancholy' character type. By remaining artistically active under the weight of sadness, Kahlo revealed that women too can be melancholy rather than depressed, and that these terms should not be thought of as gendered.

Biography

Frida Kahlo Photo

Childhood

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderon was born at La Casa Azul (The Blue House) in Coyoacan, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City in 1907. Her father, Wilhelm Kahlo, was German, and had moved to Mexico at a young age where he remained for the rest of his life, eventually taking over the photography business of Kahlo's mother's family. Kahlo's mother, Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez, was of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry, and raised Frida and her three sisters in a strict and religious household (Frida also had two half sisters from her father's first marriage who were raised in a convent). La Casa Azul was not only Kahlo's childhood home, but also the place that she returned to live and work from 1939 until her death. It later opened as a National Museum dedicated to Kahlo.

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Frida Kahlo Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Frida Kahlo
Interactive chart with Frida Kahlo's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Diego RiveraDiego Rivera
Jose Clemente OrozcoJose Clemente Orozco
David Alfaro SiqueirosDavid Alfaro Siqueiros
Georgia O'KeeffeGeorgia O'Keeffe
Henri RousseauHenri Rousseau

Personal Contacts

Tina ModottiTina Modotti
Leon TrotskyLeon Trotsky
Bertram WolfeBertram Wolfe

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism

Influences on Artist
Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo
Years Worked: 1929-54
Influenced by Artist

Artists

André BretonAndré Breton
Louise BourgeoisLouise Bourgeois
Francesca WoodmanFrancesca Woodman
Ana MendietaAna Mendieta
Tracey EminTracey Emin

Personal Contacts

Julien LevyJulien Levy
Emmy Lou PackardEmmy Lou Packard
Lola Alvarez BravoLola Alvarez Bravo
Manuel Alvarez BravoManuel Alvarez Bravo

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Magic RealismMagic Realism
Feminist MovementFeminist Movement

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Katlyn Beaver

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr. Rebecca Baillie

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Katlyn Beaver
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr. Rebecca Baillie
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