Frida Kahlo: The Defining Force of Mexican Culture
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.” – Frida Kahlo
One of Mexico’s most beloved and influential figures, Frida Kahlo encapsulates and defines what it means to be a Mexican artist. With world-renowned works, a style that’s outlasted her own life, and an inspirational life story, there’s even more to Frida Kahlo than meets the eye.
Read on to learn about her life, artistic themes, important works, and some jewelry inspired by her philosophy, artistic vision, and personality.
Born in Mexico City on July 6, 1907, Frida Kahlo began her life in the center of Mexican culture at a time when the underpinnings to Mexican society were being dislodged. Frida was 3 when the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. Later in life, Frida actually claimed to be born in 1910 to be more closely associated with the progressive politics of the revolution.
At the age of 6, Frida contracted polio. While Frida survived, the illness left her with a thinner right leg. She was also involved in a bus accident at age 18 that severely injured her. Ultimately, the pain, isolation, and tough experiences from both of these incidents have been sighted as reasons for Frida’s brilliance as an artist.
Artistic career through her adult life
During Frida’s time recovering from her injury, she began painting as a way to pass the time. Known for her vibrant self portraits, Kahlo said of her paintings, “I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best.”
The Elephant and the Dove
In 1929, Kahlo married the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. The relationship began when Kahlo approached Rivera asking for career advice. So began a long relationship that encouraged her talents and resulted in an extremely tumultuous lifelong pairing.
Called the Elephant and the Dove given their difference in size, their relationship ebbed and flowed with the two passionate painters’ fiery tempers. Their marriages (they initially were divorced before getting married again in 1940) we’re filled with extreme fights and a smattering of extramarital affairs on both sides. Kahlo has been linked to many lovers, including Leon Trotsky and Georgia O’Keefe!
An established artist shines on the international stage
Kahlo is known for her portrayals of pain and suffering using motifs such as nature and historical Mexican artifacts.
Frida was not particularly prolific, completing 143 paintings over her 47 years of life — 55 of which are self portraits.
After establishing herself in Mexico, Frida spent time in New York and Paris while showing off her work at exhibitions. Through this she developed relationships with some of the most world-renowned painters ever, including Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.
Late in her short life, Frida Kahlo had multiple health issues which caused her to be bedritten for much of her final years. She eventually lost her right leg from the knee down due to gangrene, and died in July 1954 from a pulmonary embolism. She was 47 years old.
Themes and motifs explored
Kahlo was extremely focused on self and personal growth in her work. Known primarily for her excellent self-portraits, Kahlo grounded her art in the natural world and indigineous culture, often blending herself in with plants and animals. This organic, from-the-earth direction is part of what made Kahlo such an iconic Mexican artist.
By using the naturalism of the country and rooting her pain in the imagery of the earth, she showed personal growth and discovery to work through her, and our, pain. By blending a surrealist point of view, Kahlo is able to evoke the feeling of confusion and pain she felt throughout her entire life.
Despite often working through her suffering (both physical and mental) through her work, one thing that defines Kahlo’s virtuosic talent is her ability to ground in the optimistic. Kahlo often used bright colors and dramatic symbolism to evoke indigenous cultures. This brought life to the suffering and helped connect the entire world to her virtuosic works.
‘The Two Fridas’ (1939)
One of Kahlo’s most universally treasured works, ‘The Two Fridas’ portrays 2 versions of Kahlo, one dressed in white, bleeding with a damaged heart, and another with an intact heart and vibrantly colored. Many see this as a representation of the loved and unloved Frida.
‘Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird’ (1940)
A self portrait that combines many of Frida’s most interesting artistic elements, ‘Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,’ is truly a treasure. The portrait shows Frida with a black cat and monkey on her shoulders (which is a common image in many of Frida’s works) with a hummingbird hanging from a thorn wrapped around her neck. Around her are lush greenery and flora. Many see the dead hummingbird surrounded by such lush scenery as a symbol for her depression and internal pain despite the outward lushness of her life.
‘Frida and Diego Rivera’ (1931)
Painted 2 years after the beginning of their marriage, ‘Frieda and Diego Rivera,’ was painted as a wedding portrait. The painting is thought to be a telling message from Frida, forecasting what was to become a tumultuous marriage between the 2 in the coming years. Still, despite the somewhat frustrated looks upon their faces, they still hold hands in the portrait, much like despite the affairs and fights, Frida and Diego Rivera were together until the end.
‘Henry Ford Hospital’ (1932)
An example of Frida’s surrealist virtuosity, ‘Henry Ford Hospital’ shows a naked Kahlo on a bed with objects floating around. Among the objects are a fetus and a pelvis connected to her via red, vain like strings. This deeply personal work is thought to be representative of her second miscarriage, which brought Kahlo much grief and pain.
Jewelry inspired by Frida Kahlo
At Mexican SIlver Store, we offer a variety of Frida Kahlo inspired jewelry. These items reflect Kahlo’s naturalist and independent spirit, featuring motifs and themes from her artwork and styled in Frida’s iconic imagery.
Take a look at some of our favorite items below…
Lovebird Heart Floral Necklace
Silver Hammered Heart Lovebird Earrings
Lovebird Heart Earrings
Own a piece styled in the rich tradition of Mexican artistry
When you buy a piece of authentic Mexican Silver Store jewelry, you’re working with modern artisans. You’re not only buying a piece of jewelry to add to your collection, you’re engaging with Mexican culture.