Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, though she claimed to be born in 1910 in order to connect herself with the date of the Mexican Revolution, a cause that she felt very passionate about through her life. Kahlo met her husband Diego Rivera, a famous muralist twenty years her senior when she was a student at the National Preparatory School. The murals and paintings of Diego Rivera became a great inspiration to her own ideas about art. As a child, Kahlo had suffered from polio and then survived a serious streetcar accident which audiences believe had a profound effect on the pain and questions of identity addressed in Frida Kahlo paintings. In fact, it was the amount of time that Kahlo spent bedridden that prompted her to begin painting, sometimes creating the characteristic Frida Kahlo paintings without even sitting up in her bed due to pain.
Frida Kahlo’s art occupies an important place in the development of female, symbolist, and surrealist artists in America. Though her work became definitively associated with the Surrealist movement, that specific classification of the oil paintings of Frida Kahlo was rejected by her. However, even today, Kahlo continues to be heralded as the greatest female Mexican artist of all time.
When analyzing the great body of Frida Kahlo artwork it becomes obvious that her focus on the nearly two-hundred self-portraits was a large part of her art and is often considered a therapeutic practice that helped Kahlo deal with the instances of pain in her life in a productive manner.
In a significant way, Frida Kahlo paintings and the productive time frames that accompanied their creation was an important method that staved off suicidal depression for much of Kahlo’s life. Her self-portraits provide a deep look into the evolving condition of a woman who battled many difficulties in her life and by combining much surrealist-type imagery, become a very revealing depiction of the inward state of Kahlo.
There are similarities that exist between the oil paintings of Frida Kahlo and the paintings of Diego Rivera, her husband due to the early influence his work had upon her. They both included symbolist references to Mexican culture and heritage while embracing controversial political theories in their work as well. The artwork of Frida Kahlo often contains areas of bright, saturated colors, a primitive style, and the iconography and images consistent with Mexican history as well as archeology.
As a female painter, Kahlo was in the minority and her impact has left a lasting effect with many later female artists; particularly those of Latin American descent.
Some of Frida Kahlo’s oil paintings which have become the most well-known are titled: Las Dos Fridas, Self Portrait with Monkeys, Self Portrait with Flowers, Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky, and Self Portrait with Cropped Hair. The elements of all of these oil paintings of Frida Kahlo truly suggest the extent of the pain she felt through her life and can be seen as visual proof of her struggle to overcome it.