Frida Kahlo is one of the most revered artists to come from 20th century Mexico. Her distinctive look and style are instantly recognizable and she has been called a diva, a muse and a feminist icon.
A force of nature perhaps best summed up by an art critic who saw one of her very first exhibitions and said: ‘It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography.’
She fought through a great deal of adversity during her life. At the age of six she contracted polio, when she was 18 she was badly injured in a bus crash and later in life she suffered several miscarriages … Kahlo never lost her passion for life. She was well known as an extremely quick witted and sharp woman, always the centre of attention wherever she was. Her strength of character has made her an emblem of hope and determination for many.
Art historians usually focus on her relationship with fellow Mexican painter Diego Rivera(whom she married, divorced and then married again) and her affair with Communist leader Leon Trotsky. But Kahlo was bisexual, and made no secret of her affairs and relationships with women as well as men. Kahlo was linked with African American entertainer Josephine Baker, American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and Mexican singer Chavela Vargas.
Photographers were captivated by her beauty. She was a muse to photographer Nickolas Murray who loved to take her picture in her sumptuous Mexican clothes.
Her work has been exhibited in art galleries all over the world, her diary has been published and many authors have written biographies of her extraordinary life.The house she lived in is now a museum. ‘La Casa Azul’ is filled with trinkets and treasure collected by Kahlo during her life and is one of the biggest cultural attractions in Mexico.
She defied classification of her work. Art critics tried to label her as a Surrealist painter, which was very trendy at the time, but she defied this label, instead saying: ‘They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.’
In 1938 André Breton, principal initiator of the surrealist movement, described Kahlo’s art as a "ribbon around a bomb".