Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is remembered for her self-portraits, pain and passion, and bold, vibrant colors. She is celebrated in Mexico for her attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and by feminists for her depiction of the female experience and form.
Kahlo, who suffered from polio as a child, nearly died in a bus accident as a teenager. She suffered multiple fractures of her spine, collarbone and ribs, a shattered pelvis, broken foot and dislocated shoulder. She began to focus heavily on painting while recovering in a body cast. In her lifetime, she had 30 operations.
Life experience is a common theme in Kahlo’s approximately 200 paintings, sketches and drawings. Her physical and emotional pain are depicted starkly on canvases, as is her turbulent relationship with her husband, fellow artist Diego Rivera, who she married twice. Of her 143 paintings, 55 are self-portraits.
The devastation to her body from the bus accident is shown in stark detail in The Broken Column. Kahlo is depicted nearly naked, split down the middle, with her spine presented as a broken decorative column. Her skin is dotted with nails. She is also fitted with a surgical brace.
Kahlo’s first self-portrait was Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress in 1926. It was painted in the style of 19th Century Mexican portrait painters who themselves were greatly influenced by the European Renaissance masters. She also sometimes drew from the Mexican painters in her use of a background of tied-back drapes.Self-Portrait – Time Flies (1929), Portrait of a a Woman in White (1930) and Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (1937) all bear this background.
In her second-self portrait, “Time Flies,” Kahlo uses a folk style and vibrant colors. She wears peasant clothing, and the red, white and green in the painting are the colors of the Mexican flag.