The iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo embodies the vibrant colors and tragic history of her native land. Born in a time of revolution and turmoil, she overcame poverty, childhood polio and a severe injury from a trolley accident. Despite the suffering caused by her illness and the constant pain resulting from her accident, Frida Kahlo produced an astounding number of self-portraits and other works that make her one of the most popular female artists of all time.
Sixty years after her death at age 47, she is known for her intriguing artwork and her turbulent relationship with fellow artist, Diego Rivera, who was one of her biggest supporters. Rivera wrote to a friend about her work: “I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, as loveable as a beautiful smile, and profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.” Her short life was filled with personal triumphs, the sorrow of heartbreak, and of course the physical limitations from her injuries. She lived every moment to the fullest and should inspire us all to stretch beyond our reach.
1. Chase Passion
Frida Kahlo played sports in an era when women did not participate in organized games. She painted brutally honest self-portraits, not afraid to put her emotions or perceived physical flaws on canvas.
2. Be Honest with Yourself
Painting what she knew, Kahlo’s art expressed the pain of her injuries, the heartbreak of her broken affairs and her sometime fragile psychological state.
3. Chart Your Own Path
Not bound by convention in life or art, Kahlo drew on her Mexican cultural heritage as well as her own emotions when painting. Her paintings are full of symbolism and color that set her apart from other artists.
4. Transform Your Suffering into Something Beautiful
There is nothing so honest as the painter who expresses their suffering on canvas. Many of Kahlo’s portraits are demonstrations of the pain she felt, either physical or emotional.
5. Love Deeply
Married to Diego Rivera, an artist with a fiery temperament to match her own, Frida Kahlo still indulged in numerous affairs, as did Rivera. The love she felt found its way to her art, including self-portraits where her heart was shown split in two.
6. Cultivate Your Own Personal Style
Despite shorter skirts being in vogue, Kahlo wore long skirts to hide her deformed leg. She dressed in brilliant colors and wore extravagant jewelry, often with Mexican cultural themes.
7. Be Transparent
Kahlo has said, “My paintings are…the frankest expression of myself.” The majority of her works were self-portraits. She famously said that she spent most of her time alone and she was the subject she knew best.
8. Fight for Your Beliefs
Embracing Communism in her youth, Kahlo was outspoken about her political views. She housed communist leaders in her home, supported them financially and included symbols of her beliefs about communism’s benefits in her paintings.
9. Be Devoted
After the trolley accident, Kahlo continued to paint even while wearing a full body cast. She found solace in her art as she recovered from her injuries.
10. Express Yourself
Kahlo’s art represented her life. She put her whole heart and soul into her paintings and into life and love. Frida Kahlo never let anything hold her back.