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Frida Kahlo Case

Essay by   •  June 25, 2013  •  Case Study  •  3,377 Words (14 Pages)  •  1,961 Views

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Throughout history, time has witnessed the rise of many great artists with different styles of creativity. Though each artist- whether a painter, photographer, or sculptor- comes from a unique background, they all share the same similarity of making an impact in the artistic world. As an eccentric painter, Frida Kahlo became one of these memorable artists. Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was a Surrealist painter whose talent is not only displayed through her still-lifes and portraits, but also through her numerous bold and striking self-portraits that significantly emphasized her own tragic reality.

Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City, Mexico in the suburb of Coyoacan. Kahlo's life "begins and ends in the same place" (Herrera 3) - a small blue house her own father had built in 1904. She was one of six children born to Guillermo and Matilde Kahlo, but it was always clear she was her father's favorite child. In fact, Guillermo stated that Kahlo was "the most intelligent of my daughters" for "she is the most like me" (qtd. in Herrera 18). Kahlo would later owe her "marvelous" (qtd. in Herrera 20) childhood to her father's influence. As a painter and photographer himself, Guillermo would be the first to spark his daughter's interest in art. Kahlo accompanied her father to local parks, painting her surroundings in watercolor and sharing in her father's "curiosity about, and passion for, all manifestations of nature" (Herrera 18). Guillermo had also taught Kahlo to retouch, color, and develop photographs. After her father's death, Kahlo would compare his photographs to her paintings. Whereas he took photographs of his actual reality, she painted the reality in her head.

At the age of six, Kahlo fell ill with a bout of poliomyelitis, or polio. This disease not only left her bedridden for nine months, but also with a withered right leg and foot. As a result, Kahlo would grow to be immensely insecure, especially with the constant torture of being known as "peg leg" (Herrera 15) to her classmates. Kahlo wore long skirts, a build-up right heel, and three to four socks at a time to hide her deformity. Guillermo encouraged his daughter to take part in various sports to aid in her recovery, though these activities were looked down upon on females at the time. Kahlo wrestled, swam, played soccer, and even boxed. Unfortunately for Kahlo, this would be just the beginning of her physical suffering.

In 1922, Kahlo entered the National Preparatory School, considerably known as the "best educational institution in Mexico" (Herrera 22). At the time, female students were a rarity, for Kahlo was only one of thirty-five female students of two thousand male students to attend the school. To her peers, Kahlo was well-known for her "jovial spirit and her love of traditional and colorful clothes and jewelry" ("Frida Kahlo Biography"). Interestingly enough, this would be one aspect that her future husband, Diego Rivera, would find highly attractive in Kahlo. In fact, Kahlo was first introduced to Rivera during 1922 as he worked on a mural in the school's auditorium. Though he was thirty-six years of age at the time, Kahlo found him to be intriguing, even stating that her "ambition [was] to have a child by Diego Rivera" (qtd. in Herrera 32). Through Kahlo's fascination with Rivera, she found herself in a romantic relationship with an "intellectually like-minded student" ("Frida Kahlo Biography") by the name of Alejandra Gomez Arias.

On September 17, 1925, Kahlo and Arias boarded a bus to Coyoacan. The ride would soon end in tragedy as the vehicle collided with a trolley car at an intersection, resulting in a "scene of horror" (Garza 18). The impact was so severe that Kahlo was practically stripped of all her clothing. Though Arias only suffered a few minor cuts and bruises, Kahlo was viciously impaled by a metal pole through her side. She also suffered a long list of injuries, having broken bones in her right leg and foot, shoulder, pelvis, and spine. The fractures in Kahlo's pelvis would leave her unable to have children, an aspect that would plague her for the rest of her life. The extent of Kahlo's injuries was so severe the doctors did not believe she would survive through the night. She was only eighteen years of age at the time. Overall, Kahlo would endure over thirty-two surgical operations and live pain for the remainder of her life.

Bedridden and in unbearable discomfort, Kahlo "turned to painting as a form of psychological surgery" (Herrera 74). She experimented with her talent, creating artwork using her father's own paints and a special easel provided by her mother. Having little experience in art, Kahlo began to teach herself the basics by studying various art books and works of Italian Renaissance artists. Kahlo first created portraits of her family and visitors, giving them away as gifts. Though she painted a large collection of portraits, Kahlo would mainly be remembered for her impressive self-portraits. The mirror installed above her bed would be driving force behind her self-portraits, and Kahlo fell in love the idea that she felt as if she could exist through them. Kahlo completed her first self-portrait around the one year anniversary of the accident that had almost ended her life.

In 1928, Kahlo and Rivera reconnected after she insisted he evaluate and give professional criticism of a few of her paintings. Rivera deemed Kahlo as an "authentic artist" (Garza 44) and encouraged her to continue her artistic career. As Kahlo had imagined as a young girl, the couple soon fell in love and married at the Coyoacan City Hall on August 21, 1929. Guillermo was the only relative of Kahlo's to attend the wedding, for only he could look past Rivera's old age, atheism, and reputation of being a womanizer. Not only that, but Rivera could afford to pay his daughter's medical bills. In addition, Kahlo was also considered "dangerously old" (Garza 46) to be unwed, though she was only twenty-two years of age at the time. Throughout their marriage, Rivera upheld his reputation as an unfaithful husband and had multiple affairs with different women, even with Kahlo's younger sister, Christina. In response to her anguish over her disloyal husband, Kahlo would begin having affairs with both men and women. The artists would eventually divorce in 1939, but would soon remarry a year later in 1940. When asked about Rivera, Kahlo stated, "I suffered two grave accidents in my life; one in which a streetcar ran me over, the other accident in Diego" (qtd. in Garza 52). Out of the two, Kahlo considered Rivera to be the worst.

The combination of Kahlo's rocky marriage and the tragic events

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