11 things you may not know about Frida Kahlo, in honor of la reina's birthday
In 1907, one of Mexico’s most famous painters graced us with her presence. Frida Kahlo was born on July 6th, paving the way for female artists, eccentrics, and creatives with her unapologetic nature and incredibly personal paintings. From her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera to her honesty surrounding her lifelong battle with chronic pain, Frida changed the way we relate to art. There has never been anyone like her, and not just because she rocked one of the best unibrows of all time.
With her infectious and persistent spirit, Frida is a perfect example of bravery in the face of adversity. To celebrate the icon’s birthday, we’ve rounded up 11 facts you may not know about Frida Kahlo.
1Frida was in an accident at 18, and it changed her life forever.
When Frida Kahlo was 18, she was in a horrible bus accident. A collision with a train caused a handrail to puncture through the painter’s torso. According to her boyfriend, Alex Gómez Arias, who was with her at the time of the accident, the incident actually unfastened all of Frida’s clothing, leaving her naked. Someone on the bus had been carrying powdered gold, which fell all over Frida, leaving her covered in gold and blood. Because of this accident, she suffered multiple miscarriages, chronic pain, and 32 surgeries.
2Frida’s accident is what inspired her to start painting.
Frida’s father was a painter, and when she was bedridden after her accident — thanks to a broken spinal column, collarbone, ribs, and pelvis; 11 fractures in her right leg; a crushed and dislocated right foot; and a dislocated shoulder — she decided to start painting. Instead of being overcome by her circumstances, she made the most of them.
3She had a special easel she used to paint in bed.
Since Frida was bedridden after her accident, her mother made her a special easel that allowed her to paint in bed. This served her, on and off, for the rest of her life.
4Much of Frida’s inspiration came from her pain.
Frida painted about her pain, probably as a way to cope and learn from the hardships she was dealing with. Paintings like The Broken Column and The Wounded Deer express the artist’s struggle with chronic pain and her broken spine, and the effort that comes with receiving medical treatments that don’t work, respectively. Although much of Frida’s work is self-portraiture, a lot of it also centers around her illnesses and struggles.
5She once arrived to one of her exhibitions in an ambulance.
Frida was in and out of the hospital in the early 1950s. She suffered with gangrene in her right foot when she had her first solo show in Mexico. She had to head to the opening, but the hospital didn’t think she should attend. And like the queen she is, Frida went anyway; except instead of a limo, she showed up in an ambulance. Mind over matter, right?
6Frida was bisexual.
Although Frida was married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, their relationship was rocky. Both artists had affairs, and Frida had one with artist Josephine Baker. And remember, this was in the mid-1900s; having an affair with a woman was taboo. Frida has always been an unapologetic trailblazer!
7Frida never had children.
Frida suffered many miscarriages during her life, most likely because of the accident she had when she was 18. She grieved for the children she lost, painting a piece called Henry Ford Hospital, which dealt with the sadness she was experiencing. The piece would be displayed in a gallery six years later.
8But she did have plenty of weird fur babies.
Not only did Frida have a few Xoloitzcuintli, a mexican hairless dog breed that dates back to the Aztecs, she also had a couple pet spider monkeys, a parrot, a fawn, and an eagle. She may have spent a lot of time at home, but we’re happy to know she wasn’t lonely. How could you be with so many amazing pets?
9She died at the house she was born in.
Frida was born on July 6th, 1907, in a house nicknamed “la casa azul,” which means “the blue house,” because of its bright blue exterior. This is also where Frida and husband Diego settled down. On July 13th, 1954, Kahlo died at the blue house at the age of 47. The house is now The Frida Kahlo Museum.
After she passed away, Diego donated the house as well as the artwork it contained. The house is preserved the way Frida had it in the 1950s, and contains personal artifacts like the urn with her ashes.
10Over one-third of her paintings were self-portraits.
Of Frida’s 143 paintings, 55 were self portraits. Her struggles, life experiences, and relationship with her husband are common motifs in Frida’s work. She completed over 200 paintings, sketching, and drawings in her lifetime.
11Frida was a communist.
Frida joined the Communist Party of Mexico in 1928, after Diego Rivera painted a communist mural for the Ministry for Public Education, with Frida at the center of it. Even though Frida was born on July 6th, she insisted July 7th, 1910 to be her birthday, to mirror the Mexican revolution. In diary pages dated from 1950-1951, Frida says how she wanted to create paintings that would be helpful for the communist revolutionary movement; she wanted to contribute in any positive way that her health allowed. To her, this was the true reason to live.
Happy Birthday, Frida. We will always be thinking about your soul, bravery, and art.