The Mexican painter whose influence seems to know no bounds. A total of 150 paintings, 55 of which were self-portraits. All with that one of a kind, defining unibrow. Like many artists and painters, Frida’s was a life filled with much struggle and strife.
Born July 6, 1907, in Mexico City, she grew up amidst the Mexican revolution and civil war that lasted a decade and ended with the onset of newfound Mexican nationalism and pride in their indigenous culture. Frida even changed her birth year on ID from 1907 to 1910 to have a personal connection with the beginning of the revolution. At the age of 6, Frida was infected with polio and had to live the rest of her life with a deformed right leg, slightly shorter than the left. Despite her circumstance and the taunting “peg leg Frida” of peers, Frida excelled as a student both academically and with a strong personality. In 1922 Frida joined the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria as one of the mere 35 girls in the institution (as opposed to 1,965 men), in her pursuit of the medical sciences. It is said that here she discovered Mexico and her Mexicans. The culture, the struggle, the pride in the nation, etc. all of which is reflected in her works later on. It was here she met her colleagues and friends who formed the group Los Cachuchas (the peaked caps), they were politically involved and occasionally orchestrated pranks. Frida had not received any professional schooling in painting. Then came her tragic accident in 1925. The collision of the bus she was on with a tram car resulted in multiple injuries including a fractured collar bone, leg, two ribs, a crushed foot, and damage to the spine and back.
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone because I am the person I know best.”
It was after this accident that Frida began painting. Her father set up a special apparatus allowing her to paint while lying in the bed during recovery. Frida’s values and self-expression are better discovered through her art rather than her biographical history. Her first sketch was called the Bus, where she illustrated the day of the unfortunate event. A lot of her work depicts that she faced much mental and emotional struggle along with and as a product of the physical struggles we know she underwent. Through art, Frida had found her medium. Across numerous of her works, we see her political expression. She has explored her culture, her politics, and the depth of her pain and emotion through painting. Many believed that she was a surrealist painter, with a lot of uncommon juxtaposition of images in her art. While surrealism was the exploration of concepts through dream-like imagery, Frida would say that she was simply painting her truths and her reality. A lot of her paintings were also very closely related to her tumultuous marriage with her husband Diego Rivera. She was Diego’s third marriage and he had a history of affairs throughout his first and second. This infidelity, on both sides, undoubtedly caused problems. Diego was one of the first to commend Frida’s work and encourage her, they married in 1929. He was also involved in Mexican communist politics like Frida.
“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”
Her work – Frida’s greatest influence over the world has been her work and since a majority of these were self-portraits, her visage is uniquely popular. The defining features like posture, the eyebrows, and her stern stare are the signature traits of the work. Frida’s paintings still resonate with timeless messages, her whole life has been amplified and she has shown resilience through struggles that are to a degree, inspiring. The strong expression and acknowledgment of her unparalleled beauty despite the conventionally perceived notions of beauty at the time are also worth mentioning.
– Sayanth Shajith, I PUC (E)