Frida Khalo

In 2006, during an auction in Sotheby’s in New York City, a painting called “Raices” (Roots) achieved a record price of 5.6 million dollars, becoming the most expensive Latin American piece of art ever sold. Frida Kahlo, the author, is the most renow

Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoacan, a former neighboring town of Mexico City (now completely within the city). Her parents were Guillermo Kahlo, a German photographer naturalized Mexican, and Matilde Calderon. The Mexican Revolution began when she was 3 years old, and it went on throughout most of her youth. Frida saw many revolts in her town streets and her mother occasionally fed the revolutionaries. When she was six she contracted poliomyelitis, causing her right leg to be shorter and slenderer then the left one.

Later on, when she was studying medicine in the National Preparatory School, in one of the first groups in which women were admitted, a bus where she was traveling crashed on a tramway. Frida was severely injured with broken column, neck, pelvis and many ribs, dislocated shoulder and right foot, and a handrail stuck in her belly as well. She underwent about 32 painful surgeries throughout her life and she depended on uncomfortable orthopedic corsets and other devices ever after.

As a consequence of the time she spent in the hospital and in bed at home, she had to leave her dream of becoming a physician aside but she began painting. She began painting self-portraits that became her favorite topic because, in her own words, “I spend so much time by myself that I am the person I know best”. Once enough recovered to walk by herself, a close friend introduced her to the intellectual circles of the time where she mingled with art figures such as photographer Tina Modotti and her future husband, muralist Diego Rivera whom she would marry in 1929.

Their marriage was tormented; they divorced in 1939 to re-marry in 1940. Even when she desired it so much, she couldn’t become a mother as a consequence on her belly wound. Her hazardous life, along with her socialist vocation and her passion for Mexican folklore were intensely depicted in her very particular style of surrealist art because, as she explained herself, “she didn’t paint dreams but her own reality”. She was also influenced by the post-revolution officialist style of Rivera.

Even when she achieved national and international recognition during her life, her fame came to light again in the 80’s when the “Neo-Mexican” style emerged. However, Frida Kahlo made a great impact as a Mexican art & culture icon throughout the world, something unusual for a painter, due to simultaneous and consistent events such as her retrospective exhibit throughout Europe in 1982, movie “Frida: living nature” by Paul Leduc in 1983, novels “Frida, her biography” by Hayden Herrera and “Frida, an open life” by Raquel Tibol, and last but not least, Hollywood film “Frida” starring Salma Hayek in 2002, among others.