Thursday, August 9, 2012

Frida Kahlo (her life)

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Born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo in 107 and died 154. To try and separate her life from her work would be extremely difficult. She lived with severe disabilities throughout her relatively short life and we can see her progression through her paintings, which were always direct and powerful. “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”. During my readings about her life one never gets the sense that she felt bitter about the hand that was dealt her but rather that she accepted it and got on with life.

Frida’s mother was a native Mexican of Spanish and Indian descent and her father a Hungarian-German Jewish immigrant. Kahlo was the third of four daughters- Matilde, Adriana and the youngest sister Cristina.

Frida was born in a time of change. Three years after her birth the Mexican revolution began and shortly after, WW1 would change the face of Europe. All these events influenced her art but in addition to these external influences was also the intense and personal introspection that was a characteristic of her work.

In 11 at the age of six, she contracted polio, which affected her right leg. She grew close to her father at this time who helped her build up the strength in her leg. Her father always felt Frida was the most intellectual of his daughters and although he was remote from the rest of his family always found time for her. Kahlo had a different relationship with her mother, whom she called “the boss”.

In 1 Frida was encouraged by her father to enter the National Prepatory School, which was part of the University. She was one of thirty-five girls and enjoyed the attention, as she was an outrageous extrovert at this time. It was also the first time she met the painter Diego Rivera who was engaged to paint a mural at the school. He was 6, she was 14.

In 15 Frida met with the accident that was to profoundly change her life. The bus that she was travelling on with her boyfriend collided with a streetcar. An iron rail pierced her body. Her spinal column was broken as well as her collarbone, ribs and pelvis. Her right leg had eleven fractures, her left shoulder was forever out of joint and one of her feet were crushed. As in one of her paintings the scene on the bus was bizarre. Frida’s clothes had come off in the collision and covering her bloodied body was a sprinkle of gold dust. When her body arrived at the hospital she was not expected to live. A year after the accident it was discovered that her spine had not healed properly and for the rest of her life she was forced to wear rigid corsets. She underwent many operations during her life including her spine and right foot, which she would do anything to save. Whilst in the hospital she wrote “death dances all around my bed”. The pain that began with the accident stayed with her throughout her life. She could not return to school so began painting as a way to relieve her loneliness. She had not been formally trained but developed her own unique style.

In 18 she joined the communist party and saw Rivera again as he was well known in Mexican politics. Frida asked him to look at her work, which he found intriguing. The Latin American tradition of retablo art, folk paintings that tells the story of healing provided a crucial direction for Kahlo whose own life was filled with the ebb and flow of sickness and healing.

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