Frida Calo: An Artist With A Tragic Fate

She suffered a terrible illness and a car accident, and to her last days she remained the embodiment of unbridled energy and temperament

Childhood and youth

She was born in Mexico City on July 6, 1907, but later changed her year of birth to 1910. She wanted to be born in the year of the Mexican Revolution. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was from Germany. Frida herself often said that he had Jewish roots, but that was not true. Guillermo was from an old Lutheran family. Matilda Calderon, Frida’s mother, was of Mexican Indian descent. At the age of six, Frida had polio. She survived, but after a lifetime hiding under her puffy skirts her right leg, which became thinner than her left because of the disease. At 15, she entered Mexico’s national medical school, Preparatoria. There were few girls there, much less girls like Frida.

And then disaster struck. On September 17, 1925 Frida was returning from classes by bus and was involved in an accident. The bus collided with a streetcar. Frieda had a triple fracture of her spine, a broken collarbone, and broken ribs. Her pelvis was broken in three places, her right leg in eleven, and her shoulder was dislocated. In addition, a steel rod had pierced through her abdomen, damaging her uterus. The girl should have died. But she survived.

Politics and Love

Frida first met her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, while she was still a student at the Preparatorium. He was 20 years older, a member of the Communist Party, and considered one of the most famous artists in Mexico. After Frida began to paint and participate in exhibitions, a simple acquaintance developed into a passionate attachment. In 1928, Frida joined the Communist Party, and a year later she married Diego. These people were united by their shared political beliefs and love of art, but their stormy temperament led to constant quarrels, scandals, passionate partings and equally passionate returns to each other. Frida said later that there were two accidents in her life: one when the bus collided with the streetcar, and the other with Diego. One of Frida’s most acute experiences was her inability to have a baby. The trauma made itself felt: all three of her pregnancies ended in miscarriages.

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In 1937, Lev Trotsky found refuge in the house of Diego and Frida. Once again, political and love preferences came together in Frida’s tormented soul. A mutual passion broke out between the artist and the fugitive creator of the Russian revolution. It is said that Trotsky was forced to leave the house, where he was safe, precisely because their connection had ceased to be a secret.


Frida’s paintings are a motley mixture of national folklore from pre-Columbian America, motifs from the European Renaissance, Surrealism and naive art. She painted herself: as a woman impaled on nails with a broken column instead of her spine, as a sprawled and bloodied body on a hospital bed, as a black-haired martyr surrounded by her unborn children, as a fragile little figure next to Diego, who looks like a kind giant… These paintings were born in agony, like real children, because there was probably not a single day in Frida’s life when she would not have suffered pain. And only brushes and paints allowed her to forget her injuries. She followed her husband to America, to France, and these journeys only intensified her love for Mexico, the land of mysterious, naive and passionate people whose gaze we catch every time we look at one of Frida’s self-portraits.


At first, the need to somehow manage her pain, and then her addiction, led Frida to take drugs. In addition, she adored tequila. All this did not help her already compromised health. When her first major solo exhibition opened in Mexico in 1953, the artist was no longer able to attend it on her own. She was brought in on a hospital bed. A year later she died. The official version was pneumonia of the lungs. Many of her friends and admirers thought it was due to a drug overdose. But since there was no autopsy, it was left unproven.

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It is said that Frida made her last eccentricity on this earth on the day of her funeral, at the crematorium. Those who came to bid her farewell say that a sudden strong gust of hot air lifted her body upright, her hair stood up in a halo, and her lips seemed to have formed into a sarcastic smile. It lasted a few moments, and then she rested in her fiery grave forever.

Nowadays, Frida Kahlo’s paintings rarely appear at auctions, and each such appearance is an event. They are valued at millions of dollars.