Welcome Back to Another Black Sheep of the Month! Today, we wanted to bring forth a powerful Black Sheep to the forefront, a trendsetter, Frida Kahlo. To this day, she is one of the most important Mexican artists of the 20th century. She is specifically known for her intense, thought-provoking self-portraits. While her work was very popular in Mexico, her influence significantly increased in the decades after her demise and, today, she is the most celebrated female artist that has inspired countless exhibitions, two operas, and multiple movies.
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyocan, which was, at that time, a suburb of Mexico City. Her mother was a devout Catholic with native Mexican ancestors and her father was a liberal German immigrant. The Mexican Revolution that threw Porfirio Diaz’s autocratic government made a major impression on Frida as a child. This impression would be articulated throughout some of her most famous works of art.
When she was fifteen, her father supported her education and sent her to Mexico City’s most well-known high school, Escuela Nacional Preparatoria. Originally, Frida aspired to attend university and become a doctor. However, a life altering incident would intervene with said ambitions. The accident would change the course of her life forever and leave her stuck at home for about a year. During that period of time while confined to her room and bed, she started to paint. With little to no experience, she began to express her emotions through the very colors we would celebrate today all the while her body deteriorated beyond recovery.
Unbeknownst too many, after the accident and up until her passing, she had to experience many surgeries and undergo much pain and suffering. More on that later.
Frida married a renowned artist Diego Rivera on August 21, 1929, divorced in 1939, and remarried in 1940. The couple’s marriage remained troublesome for the rest of Frida’s life as both had many affairs and their relationship continued to weaken due to Diego’s outbursts.
Since Rivera was a renowned artist, he had been commissioned to paint murals in San Francisco. For that purpose, he and Frida travelled together to the United States in 1930. In 1931, she accompanied her husband to the opening of his exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As we know now, Frida did not like the American society and she was often lonely when Rivera was working. So, she expressed her emotions and views into her own art.
Not long after, Rivera was commissioned to paint murals for the Ford factory, so the couple moved to Detroit. There, Frida suffered a grim miscarriage which left her physically and emotionally devastated. This incident would take its toll like none had anticipated. In response to her grief and devastation, she painted some of her most haunting, personal, revealing, and tragic art works, such as Henry Ford Hospital and My Birth in 1932.
Following that dark incident, in 1938, Andre Breton, who cherished her art, invited Frida to Paris. Given her growing popularity and raw talent, Frida would continue to grow. A couple of years later, Frida started to teach at La Esmeralda art school in Mexico City. While having endured pain throughout her life, her health worsened even more in 1950. Frida died in her childhood home in 1954, at the age of 47. Her importance for Mexico and its art history was already notable when she was mourned by several Mexican artists and officials in the Palacio Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
Artistic Collaboration and Recognition
When Frida Kahlo started to paint, she focused primarily on objects that were within the reach of her bed. She drew portraits of herself and her family members. While she was influenced by a diverse imagery and a variety of themes – pre-Columbian Mexican symbols, Catholic Art and imagery, Mexican Folk Art – the themes of tumultuous love, pain, and sickness reappear in many of her works.
Because of the circles Frida moved in and her striking personality and appearance, she also served as a model for her husband, lovers, and friends. She painted Rivera and herself many times, Rivera painted her in his mural En el Arsenal, and she was photographed by Nickolas Muray and Edward Weston.
Frida was not taken seriously in the early stages of her artistic work. However, during her lifetime, she managed to establish herself as a significant artist, and later her work eventually outshone Rivera’s due to the intriguing originality and timelessness of her portraits.
As a painter, Frida Kahlo managed to create something truly unique from a series of artistic, political, religious, and personal influences that marked her everyday life and time. Decades after her death, the interest in her work remained greater than ever.
Most Notable Works
Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ is Frida’s self-portrait that is considered as one of her most notable works. In this painting, she depicted herself wearing a necklace of thorns, portraying as a victim. This painting has been showcased more than 25 museums in the United States and also in countries like Spain, France, Canada, and Australia.
Her another most notable work is her painting called ‘The Broken Column’. She painted it right after she underwent spine surgery. This artwork depicted her suffering and it is symbolic of her psychological and physical struggles.
Awards and Achievements
- In 1946, the Ministry of Public Education awarded Frida Kahlo the National Prize of Arts and Sciences.
- She was considered as one of the greatest artists of Mexico.
- Her work was the first Mexican art bought by a globally-renowned museum.
Honors Attributed to Frida Kahlo
Following is a list of several honors attributed to Frida Kahlo:
- 1958: Opening of the Blue House in Coyoacán. It’s also commonly known as Frida Kahlo Museum and Casa Azul.
- 1982: Exhibition of her work in London at the Whitechapel Gallery.
- 1985: Park in Coyoacán named after her.
- 2001: The US and Mexico issue stamps with Kahlo’s self-portrait.
- 2005: Tate Modern sponsors Frida’s works in an exhibition.
- 2010: Mexico issues Peso bills featuring image of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
- 2012: A Plaque of the Legacy Walk in Chicago that honors inter-, trans-, bi-, and homosexual people was dedicated to Frida Kahlo.
Streets Named After Kahlo
- Rua Frida Kahlo, Serpa (Portugal)
- Frida-Kahlo-Straße, Bocholt (Germany)
- Rua Frida Kahlo, Criciúma (Brazil)
- Calle Frida Kahlo, Madrid (Spain)
Foundations and Scholarships
- The Frida Kahlo Foundation for Culture and the Arts (Texas, USA)
- Frida Kahlo Scholarship in Ministry and Creative Arts (Mishawaka, Indiana, USA)
As we know by now, a Black Sheep is not one who needs to undergo great misfortune, pain and suffering. Let me be clear were not looking for a classic hero origin story. No, were talking about your average people who made impact with the cards they were dealt. A Black Sheep is a strong individual who can make the best or transform a situation into a positive or passionate undertaking. For Frida, it was her art that transformed and gave light to her many dark days. Most importantly, she lived through her art with value and integrity given the circumstances she had to deal with. Now, were not applauding nor condoning adultery, we are however nominating the passion and drive that drove and solidified her authenticity as an individual.
Frida Kahlo has served as a role model for generations of bisexual women, people with disabilities, and artists. Nothing stopped her, not her own infirmities or the society. Today, she remains an iconic figure in feminist history, and continues to serve as a source of inspiration for many. As always we want to hear from you, let us know what you think, share your thoughts and enlighten us. “Till next time”-The Black Sheep