Today is the birthday of Frida Kahlo, born in Coyoacán, just outside Mexico City (1907). She was born in her parents’ home, La Casa Azul — the Blue House.
When Kahlo was 18, the bus she was riding collided with a streetcar. Her collarbone, spine, and pelvis were fractured. She was bedridden for several months, and it was during this time that she first took up painting. Her mother rigged up an easel that would fit over the bed, and, using a mirror, she painted her first of 55 self-portraits. She showed her early efforts to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who encouraged her to keep at it.
Kahlo said: “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” She first met the painter Diego Rivera in 1923, when she was 15. He had been commissioned to paint a mural at her school, and she would watch him work for hours. In 1929 they were married. Rivera was notoriously unfaithful and even had an affair with Kahlo’s sister Cristina. The couple divorced in 1939, but they remarried soon afterward and remained together until Kahlo’s death. They led largely separate lives, and both artists had affairs throughout their marriage.
Kahlo’s work was championed by surrealist André Breton and painter Marcel Duchamp, who arranged exhibitions of her paintings, which often combine brilliant colors and striking images from Mexican folk art. She said: “[Critics] thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.