Humanities › History & Culture Biography of Frida Kahlo, Mexican Surrealist and Folk Art Painter Her life was dramatized in a biopic nearly 50 years after her death Share Flipboard Email Print Ivan Dmitri / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images History & Culture Women's History Important Figures History Of Feminism Key Events Women's Suffrage Women & War Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Jone Johnson Lewis Women's History Writer B.A., Mundelein College M.Div., Meadville/Lombard Theological School Jone Johnson Lewis is a women's history writer who has been involved with the women's movement since the late 1960s. She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. our editorial process Jone Johnson Lewis Updated July 24, 2019 Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954), one of the few women painters that many can name, was known for her surrealistic paintings, including many emotionally intense self-portraits. Stricken with polio as a child and injured badly in an accident when she was 18, she struggled with pain and disability all her life. Her paintings reflect a modernist take on folk art and integrate her experience of suffering. Kahlo was married to artist Diego Rivera. Fast Facts: Frida Kahlo Known For: Mexican surrealist and folk art painterAlso Known As: Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, Frieda Kahlo, Frida Rivera, Mrs. Diego Rivera.Born: July 6, 1907 in Mexico CityParents: Matilde Calderón, Guillermo KahloDied: July 13, 1954 in Mexico CityEducation: National Preparatory School in Mexico City, entered 1922, studied medicine and medical illustrationFamous Paintings: The Two Fridas (1939), Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940), Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)Awards and Honors: National Prize of Arts and Sciences (conferred by the Mexican Ministry of Public Education, 1946)Spouse: Diego Rivera (m. Aug. 21, 1929–1939, remarried 1940–1957)Children: NoneNotable Quote: "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration." Early Life Kahlo was born in a suburb of Mexico City on July 6, 1907. She later claimed 1910 as her year of birth because 1910 was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. She was close to her father but not so close to her often-depressed mother. She was struck with polio when she was about 6 years old and while the illness was mild, it did cause her right leg to be withered—which led to the twisting of her spine and pelvis. She entered the National Preparatory School in 1922 to study medicine and medical illustration, adopting a native style of dress. The Trolley Accident In 1925, Kahlo was nearly fatally injured when a trolley collided with the bus on which she was riding. She broke her back, pelvis, collarbone, and two ribs, her right foot was crushed, and her right leg was broken in 11 places. A handrail of the bus impaled her in the abdomen. She had surgeries throughout her life to try to correct the disabling effects of the accident. Diego Rivera and Marriage During the convalescence from her accident, she began to paint. Self-taught, in 1928 Kahlo sought out Mexican painter Diego Rivera, more than 20 years her senior, whom she'd met when she was in preparatory school. She asked him to comment on her work, which relied on bright colors and Mexican folk images. She joined the Young Communist League, which Rivera headed. In 1929, Kahlo married Rivera in a civil ceremony despite her mother's protests. The couple moved to San Francisco for a year in 1930. It was his third marriage and he had many affairs, including with Kahlo's sister Cristina. Kahlo, in turn, had her own affairs, with both men and women. One of her brief affairs was with American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. She changed the spelling of her first name from Frieda, the German spelling, to Frida, the Mexican spelling, in the 1930s as a protest against fascism. In 1932, Kahlo and Rivera lived in Michigan, where Kahlo miscarried a pregnancy. She immortalized her experience in a painting titled, "Henry Ford Hospital." From 1937–1939, Leon Trotsky lived with the couple. Kahlo had an affair with the Communist revolutionary. She was often in pain from her disabilities and emotionally distraught from the marriage, and probably addicted to painkillers for a long time. Kahlo and Rivera divorced in 1939, but then Rivera convinced her to remarry the next year. Kahlo made that marriage contingent on remaining sexually separate and on her financial self-support. Art Success Kahlo's first solo show was in New York City, in 1938, after Rivera and Kahlo had moved back to Mexico. She had another show in 1943, also in New York. Kahlo produced many paintings in the 1930s and 1940s, but it was not until 1953 that she finally had a one-woman show in Mexico. Her long struggle with her disabilities, however, had left her by this point an invalid, and she entered the exhibit on a stretcher and rested on a bed to receive visitors. Her right leg was amputated at the knee when it became gangrenous. Death Kahlo died in Mexico City in 1954. Officially, she died of a pulmonary embolism, but some believe she deliberately overdosed on painkillers, welcoming an end to her suffering. Even in death, Kahlo was dramatic; when her body was being put into the crematorium, the heat caused her body to suddenly sit up. Legacy Kahlo's work began to come to prominence in the 1970s. Much of her work is at the Museo Frida Kahlo (the Frida Kahlo Museum), also called the Blue House for its cobalt blue walls, which opened in 1958 in her former Mexico City residence. She is considered a forerunner to feminist art. Indeed, Kahlo's life was depicted in the 2002 biopic, "Frida," starring Salma Hayek as the title character. The film received a 75 percent critic's score and an 85 percent audience score on the movie review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It also received six Academy Award nominations (winning for Best Makeup and Best Original Score), including Hayek's nomination in the Best Actress category for her dramatic portrayal of the long-departed artist. Sources “17 Frida Kahlo Quotes to Inspire You to Turn Pain Into Beauty.” Goalcast, 19 Dec. 2018.Anderson, Kelli, and Shovova. “Art History: The Stories and Symbolism Behind 5 of Frida Kahlo's Most Well-Known."“Major Achievements.” Frida Kahlo.“MUSEO FRIDA KAHLO.” Frida Kahlo Museum.Paintings.” My Modern Met, 23 Aug. 2018.“Frida Kahlo and Her Paintings.” Henri Matisse.“Frida (2002).” Rotten Tomatoes.