FRIDA KAHLO – THE LEGEND

By Vidhi Mehta

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“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”

She is known throughout the world for her distinctive style and her unified brow has remained an iconic remark of her since decades.

Frida Kahlo has remained famous for many years, she is known for painting works inspired from her own life and challenges she had to face.

In a world dominated by men, there are not that many women who are known for their art works.

Frida Kahlo was known for her bold emotions shining through her paintings.

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was born on 6 july,1907 in Mexico. 

She was a painter known for her many self – portraits and paintings inspired by nature. 

Frida suffered from polio when she was six and had to be bedridden for months. Because of that her right leg was much thinner. She often limped after recovering and had to wear long skirts for the rest of her life because of that.

Her art journey started with a despairing story. When she survived a near fatal incident.

In 1925, Frida Kahlo was on her way home from school in Mexico City.

Frida was on a bus, when that bus collided with a streetcar. Frida was deeply injured. She was rushed to the hospital, after several critical hours she survived. But she suffered serious injuries. A steel handrail had hit her hip. Her spine and pelvis were fractured, and the incident left her in a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. 

She was bedridden and had to wear a full body cast for months afterwards. To alleviate the pain she started painting and finished her first self portrait, while in hospital. Her father bought her a special easel to paint, so that she could paint lying in her bed. When she began to paint the world according to her, it was just a singular vision. She expressed herself in different paintings according to the emotions she was feeling. Her self portraits remarked surreal emotions, some which many people don’t understand.

Over the course of her life she had established herself as the creator and muse behind extraordinary art.

She was once asked why she paints self portraits. Her reply,

“I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best.”

Well, for many while a near – fatal injury is the worst experience, a deep pain in the heart can cause more injuries than physical agony.

Frida expressed that there were two accidents in her life.

Frida met Diego Rivera in 1927. She had been politically active and a communist artist for some time and met Diego because of their common interests. Diego Rivera was a fellow painter.

Frida married Diego in 1929 despite her mother’s denial. 

Diego had been married before. But all the previous marriages ended up because of his frequent dalliances.

But Frida never doubted Diego, until the time when doubts about Diego were proved right.

Because of the bus accident Frida couldn’t bear children.

Her painting the ‘Henry Ford Hospital’ is a depiction of the pain Frida went through because of the miscarriage. It has drawings of what might the reasons be for that, all connected with umbilical cords.

Frida Kahlo was a personality which resembled the correct meanings of words like courage, determination and dedication, even when life tested her, she managed to be on the better side.

Even though she had to face several tragedies, she managed to be always looking at the bright side of everything.

Her works were always inspired from the emotions she had. She continued to paint several great art pieces throughout her life. ‘The two Fridas’ is a work that shows how two personalities were embedded in her mind. One Frida being low spirited, and one being free as a bird flying, but still remembering the lost lover. This painting was painted by her after she and Diego parted ways. The paintings by Frida Kahlo end up erupting several emotions in the mind of the viewer and the person can’t help but be in a rather perturbed situation. Whether to learn something from Frida’s life or to sense the same pain like her. There are some hidden meanings that can only be sensed when the viewer looks closely and tries to see through the paintings and feel the emotion behind it.

She painted portraits, paintings of friends, relatives, still life, and works inspired from nature. But her self portraits have left an everlasting impact on the world, and still continue to impress the generation. 

‘The broken column’ is a painting that she painted, remembering the bus accident that damaged her spine but not her spirit. That painting resembled her ruptured self. 

Kahlo’s works have often been associated with surrealism. While other painters painted dream – like surreal views, Frida painted her emotions and physical state.

She constantly refrenced Mexican folk culture in her art pieces. Her first painting was a self portrait of her dressed in a red velvet dress. She continued to be a part of Mexican revolution. Over the years she immersed herself in politics and fighting for the revolution. It is said that she changed her birth year from 1907 to 1910 just to be a part of the revolution. Because the Mexican revolution started in 1910, and went on for a decade.

Kahlo received a commission from the Mexican government to paint important figures of Mexico, but was unable to finish it because she lost her father that year.

Despite the personal challenges she had to face she managed to survive through them, and managed to remain strong.

She faced chronic health problems and was sick during the last years of her life. 

Because of the bus accident she faced lifelong complications and endured many hospitalisations. 

After her death, her paintings experienced a surge in popularity that has lasted to this day, her admirers increasing each day.

Frida Kahlo created a total  of 55 self portraits, most of them were of herself in deep grief, and surrounded by animals. She loved animals, she had dogs, parrots and monkeys as pets.

In 1940, she had very serious health problems and was admitted to a hospital. Diego came to her and proposed to her one more time and she accepted it. With each passing year, her health only grew worse. That same year, she had an exhibition in Mexico which she attended in bed. 

Her last painting was painted by her eight days before her death. That painting was originally called ‘Watermelons’  but got famous for the words carved on one of the watermelons. ‘Viva La Vida’ which translates to ‘Long Live Life’. Even though the composition was simple in terms of structure, but was complex in terms of emotions that Frida tried to paint. 

She died of pneumonia in 1945, in 1955 the Mexican government converted her house into a museum, and tourists from around the world visit that house till this day. 

Movies have been made about her, the most famous and beautiful being named ‘Frida’.

In her lifetime full of pain and struggle, the Mexican artist was able to complete more than 150 paintings which are housed in several museums and are displayed in exhibitions regularly.

When she realised her life ending she wrote in her diary,”I hope that the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return.” Even though she didn’t want to return to this world. But, we remember her till this date, and want more people with strong opinions. This world where in some places women are denied equal rights, we need more Fridas. We need Fridas who can fight for justice, who can fight if they are denied rights and are not tied to only housewifery. We need strong women more than ever now. 

By Vidhi Mehta

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