New Year, New Inspiration – Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, with cacti. Photo: Nickolas Muray Photo Archives/Frida in Front of the Cactus Fence, San Angel, 1938

This week we are taking a look into the life of a very well known artist. It was September 2018 when I  became inspired by Frida Kahlo’s life and work after visiting the Making Her Self Up exhibition at the V&A. The show included an extraordinary collection of her personal artefacts and clothing that had been locked away for 50 years after her death, exhibited for the first time outside of Mexico.

How much do you know about Frida Kahlo? Let’s take a glimpse into her life…

To put it bluntly, Frida Kahlo was a rule breaker who was not afraid to be herself and ‘expressed herself unapologetically’! Frida was born in 1907 in Mexico City. When she was 6 years old she caught polio and was very poorly for nearly a year. As a result of this her right leg was very weak and thin. She grew up in a strong female household, but had a special relationship with her German born father who encouraged her in all aspects of her childhood.  Although Frida had a mixed heritage, she was very proud of her home country. When  she was older she even claimed her birth date was 3 years later than it was just to tie in with the Mexican revolution. 

When Frida was 18 years old she was involved in a bus accident, when it crashed into a tram, leaving her with a broken spinal column. It was during her recovery that she started to paint and discovered her talent for art. Out of 143 paintings in her lifetime 55 were self-portraits! She is also well known for including skulls in her work. 

Her passion for painting was encouraged by painter Diego Rivera whom she married in 1929, and they later moved to the US where she was given the chance to exhibit her paintings. 

Self Portrait Along the Boarder Line Between Mexico and the United States, 1932 by Frida Kahlo

Even though this was a fantastic opportunity Frida missed Mexico and they eventually moved back in 1933 but later divorced in 1939. She remarried less than a year later and moved back into her childhood home La Casa Azul ‘The Blue House’.

Frida loved nature, plants and animals. She found peace in her garden with the colourful, vibrant flowers, succulents and cacti – her paradise  – which really inspired her paintings.  Her pets (monkeys, dogs, birds and a fawn) kept her company. These featured in her paintings often acting as symbols relating to Mexican folklore. In the painting below Frida uses monkeys to represent her four very devoted students whom she taught at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking in Mexico City in 1943. Frida’s love of colour helped her express her emotions, green being a colour of sadness. It is thought that the ‘monkeys’ are protecting Frida and giving joy in a challenging time. 

Before her death in 1954 one of Frida’s last paintings was a still life of a watermelons, a popular symbol associated with the celebration of death. Despite her struggles she still had a passion for life right until the very end. Even now Frida is still a huge source of inspiration and an icon for people around the world and has left a lasting legacy. 

I hope you have enjoyed learning about Frida Kahlo and I encourage you to find out more about her life and work. You can discover more about the exhibition Making Herself Up from the link below. There are some great photos of her beautiful, colourful clothes including traditional dresses and headpieces. Frida was certainly a fashionista and is still influencing fashion designers to this very day.

Next week we will be making Frida Kahlo inspired key rings so you carry around with you the strength, courage and creativity of Frida every day 😊 All you will need is colourful felt, embroidery thread and a key ring!


Penguin/V&A book from Exhibition Making Herself Up 2018

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