Frida Kahlo is a famous 20th century artist who became an embodiment of Mexican culture, especially indigenous culture (notably however, her father was German).
She also knew a thing or two about chronic pain.
Her life was marked by tragic levels of injury and trauma. She contracted Polio at 6 leaving her with one deformed leg that was significantly shorter than the other and wore long skirts all her life to hide her deformity.
At age 18, Kahlo was in a horrendous bus accident and suffered nearly fatal injuries, a metal rail impaled her through her pelvis, fracturing it, several vertebra and ribs, her legs, and a collarbone. During her life she went through 35 operations (possibly more) to “fix” …
her injuries, lived in all manner of body casts and braces and in constant pain.
“Her friend Andres Henestrosa stated that Kahlo ‘lived dying,'” ~ Ankori, Gannit (2005). Frida Kahlo: The Fabric of Her Art.
After her accident, having to give up her pre-med studies, she started what would become her career as a painter (which she began lying flat on her back in bed). Her mother and father gave her oil paints and brushes, had a special easel made, and a mirror installed in the canopy above her bed so that she could paint as she spent months in bed. Kahlo’s self-portraiture’s later became her trademark along with her surrealistic style which she described as being depictions of her reality NOT her dreams and nightmares (as some had speculated).
Frida Kahlo created 143 paintings out of which 55 are self-portraits, and her’s was the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to be shown in and purchased by the Louvre.
Kahlo said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Her self portraits were often the depictions and interpretations of both her physical and psychological wounds.
Born on July 6, 1907 in Mexico City she often told people she was born in 1910 so that they would directly associate her with the Mexican Revolution (that began that year). In her lifetime she became famous, not so much as a painter in her own right but as the wife of Diego Rivera, a well-to-do and famous painter and muralist whom she married at the age of 22. It was a very passionate and tumultuous relationship, they married, divorced, married again and both had numerous extra-martial affairs, including Diego’s own affair with Frida’s younger sister….causing a woman who lived in constant physical pain continual, substantial emotional pain.
Kahlo died at the age of 47 supposedly of a heart condition although it is rumored that she committed suicide. A few days before her death, she wrote in her diary:
“I hope the exit is joyful – and I hope never to return.“
She, as many artists before her, only became famous after death.
In 2002 a biographical film ‘Frida’, in which Salma Hayek plays Frida, grossed over $US 50 million and won two Academy Awards.