Frida Kahlo: An Artistic Icon


Katherine Lu, Journalist/Editor

On September 17, 1925, Frida Kahlo and her lover, Alejandro Gomez Arias, got off their bus to look for an umbrella she had left behind. Although at the time neither were aware, this would change her life forever.

Kahlo and Arias located the umbrella and boarded the next bus, which was more crowded. Mere minutes later, the driver of the bus tried to pass an oncoming electric streetcar. The streetcar collided with the bus and dragged it for a few feet. Several passengers died instantly, and several more would die from their injuries. Arias escaped with minor injuries, but the accident left Kahlo with a fractured pelvis bone, broken ribs, and a broken collarbone. Her leg was broken into eleven pieces and her shoulder and right foot were dislocated. An iron handrail had stabbed her through the pelvis “the way a sword pierces a bull” as Kahlo would later say, and punctured her abdomen. The handrail was removed by her boyfriend and several others, which was very painful for her. Three of her vertebrae were displaced, and as treatment, Kahlo had to wear a plaster corset which kept her confined to bed for three long months. 

During bed rest, Kahlo resumed her childhood hobby of painting. Her mother gave her a specially-made lap easel so she could paint while in bed, while her father, an artist, lent her his oil paints and brushes. She became her own artistic muse, painting self-portraits using an overhead mirror mounted in her bed’s canopy. Her portraits mostly consisted of her surrounded by different backgrounds, from parrots perched on her idle arms, to monkeys hanging her shoulders and dress. Later, Kahlo would say, “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best”.

Frida Kahlo went on to paint around 200 paintings in her life, 55 of which were self-portraits. During her lifetime, her artwork was relatively unknown. It was only after her death from pulmonary embolism that her work became recognized for its greatness. Nowadays, she is one of the most important and well-known figures in art history, who is remembered for her vivid and captivating artwork.



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