Mexican-born Frida Kahlo has become one of the most recognizable art icons worldwide. She boldly told the story of her life in vibrant brushstrokes, turning her pain into art. Immersive Frida Kahlo, an immersive experience by Lighthouse Immersive, brought her art to life on a monumental scale.
But how much do you actually know about this iconic artist? Frida’s life might have been brief, but she blazed brightly.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Frida Kahlo:
Frida Kahlo was a revolutionary at heart. She was born Magdalena Frida Carmen Kahlo y Calderón on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacan, Mexico City. However, she started claiming that she was born in 1910, so that the date of her birth would coincide and be associated with the start of the Mexican Revolution.
Frida had a happy childhood, but at the age of 6, was diagnosed with polio. She was isolated, and could not socialize with peers for an extended period. The polio affected her right leg, which stopped growing. This caused a slight limp that she had for the rest of her life. Her classmates nicknamed her “Frida la coja”, or Frida the gimp.
Despite the health setbacks Frida experienced in her childhood, she was a bright student. At the age of 16 she was accepted to the prestigious National Preparatory School in Mexico City. She attended, with the intention to eventually study medicine. Her knowledge of human anatomy is demonstrated in numerous of her paintings.
Frida’s ambition of becoming a doctor was violently interrupted when she was in a near-fatal bus accident at the age of 18. Her spine was irrevocably damaged. Complications from the accident would lead to 32 surgeries throughout her lifetime, as well as the need to wear 28 medical corsets for extended periods.
While she was recovering from the bus accident, her parents commissioned a special easel and rigged up mirrors to her bed that allowed her to paint while still protecting her spine. She started painting herself - she was her own readily available model,
In 1929, Frida married Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. He was 20 years her senior. The marriage was turbulent, with both parties having affairs. One of Diego’s many affairs was with Frida’s younger sister, which infuriated her. Frida had affairs with men and women.
After 10 years the couple were divorced, and parted on amicable terms.
However, Frida and Diego remarried a year later. Their second marriage was just as stormy as their first, but Frida would remain married to Diego until her death.
Although Frida lived in Diego’s shadow in the art world during her lifetime, her fame and recognition has since eclipsed his own.
While it cannot be determined how many paintings Frida painted throughout her lifetime, the amount is estimated to be around 155. Of these paintings, more than 50 were self-portraits. Frida explored her identity through her art, using symbolism to express her inner thoughts and struggles.
Frida famously said: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
André Breton was the first of the surrealists to claim Frida’s art for their school. He discovered her work while traveling to Mexico City in 1938, and was enchanted.
Frida, however, did not think much of the surrealists, nor did she count herself among them: “I don't paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality.”
Frida’s art has been described as magic realism - blending realistic depictions of her life with fantastical elements to reflect her inner thoughts and struggles. Her style also takes inspiration from Mexican folk art.
In 1939, Frida traveled to Paris to show her work. She may not have been happy with this trip and the exhibit her works formed part of, but the Louvre did acquire one of her paintings, The Frame (1938). This made Frida the first 20th-century Mexican artist to be included in the museum’s collection.
In 1953, Frida’s first solo exhibit was set to open in Mexico. Unfortunately, she was on bed rest under her doctor’s orders. No one expected her to be at the exhibit - but they underestimated her determination and tenacity.
Frida made a splash, arriving at the gallery in an ambulance. She ordered that she be brought inside on a stretcher and moved to a bed. From this vantage point, she enjoyed the opening.
Only a few months after her very successful gallery opening, Frida’s health deteriorated. Eventually her right leg had to be amputated at the knee due to gangrene. Frida became anxious and depressed, which led to her dependency to painkillers worsening. Towards the end of her life, Frida was mostly bedridden.
Sometime during the night of July 13th, 1954, Frida Kahlo passed away. She was only 47. She is reported to have died from a pulmonary embolism, but some have suggested that she may have died by suicide or overdose.
A diary entry from a few days before her death read: “I hope the exit is joyful - and I hope never to return”.
The legacy of Frida Kahlo
Although she had received some recognition during her lifetime, Frida Kahlo really started gaining international acclaim about two decades after her death. Her art is not only beautiful on an aesthetic level; it has also become a universal symbol of resilience and perseverance.
Brave and brutally honest, Kahlo transferred her fears and pain onto canvas in a way that resonates even more powerfully with us today. Kahlo used art to empower herself and, in so doing, has become one of the most beloved and popular artists of all time.
Immersive Frida Kahlo, an immersive experience by Lighthouse Immersive, celebrated Frida’s life and art in a brand-new way. The 360-degree immersive art experience uses state-of-the-art technology that invites you to step inside the colorful and vibrant world of Frida Kahlo as it comes to life around you.