Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), Mexican painter, who produced mostly small, highly personal self-portraits using elements of fantasy and a style inspired by native popular art. Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico, near Mexico City. While a student at Mexico City's National Preparatory School in 1925, she sustained severe injuries in a bus accident. During her recuperation, Kahlo taught herself to paint. After three years she took some of her first paintings to the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who encouraged her to continue her work. Kahlo and Rivera married in 1929.
Influenced by Rivera's work, Kahlo adopted his use of broad, simplified color areas and a deliberately naive style in her paintings. Like Rivera, she wanted her paintings to affirm her Mexican identity, and she frequently used technical devices and subject matter from Mexican archaeology and folk art. The impact of her work is enhanced by techniques such as the inclusion of fantastic elements, a free use of space, and the juxtaposition of incongruous objects.
Kahlo primarily depicted her personal experience. She frequently focused on the painful aspects of her life, using graphic imagery to convey her meaning. The turbulence of her marriage is shown in the weeping and physically injured self-portraits she painted when she felt rejected by Rivera. She portrayed her physical disintegration, the result of the bus accident, in such works as The Broken Column (1944, Collection of Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City), in which she wears a metal brace and her body is open to reveal a broken column in place of her spine. Her sorrow over her inability to bear children is revealed in paintings such as Henry Ford Hospital (1932, Collection of Dolores Olmedo Foundation), in which objects that include a baby, a pelvic bone, and a machine hover around a hospital bed where she lies having a miscarriage.
Kahlo had three exhibitions during her lifetime. The exhibitions in New York City in 1938 and in Paris in 1939 were organized through her contact with the French surrealist poet and essayist André Breton. In 1953 she had her first exhibition in Mexico, at a gallery in Mexico City. The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait was published in 1995. Her home in Coyoacán is now the Frida Kahlo Museum.