Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón was born in her parents' house in the small town of Coyoacán, on the outskirts of Mexico City, on July 6 1907. She was the daughter of a German-Jewish, painter and photographer father, who heralded from Romania. When she was six years old, Frida suffered from polio, which left her right leg much thinner than the left. It was here that her trademark feistiness and aggressive personality first showed, as she overcame her disability.
After completing her primary studies in 1922, Frida became a student at the Escuela National Prepatoria School, where she had aspirations to become a doctor. At this time, she had no thought of pursuing a career in art. During her time at this school, Frida became involved with a political group, which supported socialist-nationalist ideals. The leader of this group, Alejandro Gomez Arias became Frida's lover.
During this period, the Mexican government sponsored local artists to paint murals in public places such as churches, schools and libraries, and it was at this point that Frida Kahlo first became aware of the artist Diego Rivera.
September 17, 1925 saw a huge turning point in Frida's life. Whilst traveling in a bus with her boyfriend, she and Alejandro were stuck crossside by a trolley car. Frida sustained multiple injuries – including a broken pelvic bone, spinal column, and other severe injuries, leading doctors to doubt whether she would survive. She spent the next several months in bed recovering from the accident, and to help her convalesce, her father lent her his paintings and canvas'.
Although she managed, ever, to regain the ability to walk again, Frida was hampered by bouts of great pain that would plague her for the rest of her life. In the aftermath of the accident, she turned her attention away from medicine and towards the world of art.
Using her horrific luck as a muse, she produced 143 pieces through her life depicting great pain and centred on the harsh lives that women lead. She also was heavily influenced with the indigenous Mexican culture, which she would represent with bright colors in a mixture of realism and symbolism.
These paintings full of symbolism practiced the attention of the artist Diego Rivera. It was with this man she shared a famously unstable relationship – the couple married, divorced, and then remarried again. Rivera allegedly battled Frida when he was in fits of rage and she famously once stated; "I suffered two grave accidents in my life. One involved a bus … the other accident is Diego."
Kahlo was an active communicist, and rumors spread that she had an affair with Leon Trotsky, who was later assassinated in Mexico City by people working for Stalin in 1940.
Kahlo's work was often described as being surrealist, but she would often dispute this label – she once said, "The only thing I know … is that I paint because I need to." I paint my own reality … I paint what Ever passes through my head without any other consideration. I paint myself-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best. "
She became an iconic figure among feminists and also as a figure of Mexico.
On July 13th, Frida Kahlo died in the same house in which she was born at the age of 47. The cause of her death was officially reported as "pulmonary embolism". Suicide was suspected but never confirmed. Once when asked what to do with her body when she dies, Frida replied: "Burn it … I have spent too much time lying down … Just burn it!"
At her funeral, mourners gathered to witness the cremation of Mexico's greatest and most shocking painter. Soon to be an international icon, Frida Kahlo knew how to give her fans one last unforgettable goodbye. As the cries of her admirers filled the room, the sudden blast of heat from the open incinerator doors caused her body to bolt upright. Her hair, now on fire from the flames, blazed around her head like a halo. Frida's lips appeared to break into a seductive grin just as the doors closed. Her last diary entry read: "I hope the exit is joyful … and I hope never to return – Frida."
Her ashes were placed in a pre-Columbian urn which is on display in her former home La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, which has been turned into a museum containing a number of her works.