Frida The Inspiration


Frida Kahlo Quotes:

• Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?

• I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.

• I love you more than my own skin.

• I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.

  1. I paint my own reality.

  1. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.

• I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.

• I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.

  1. My painting carries with it the message of pain.

  1. Painting completed my life.

• There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.

Frida Kahlo:

Frida died just after her birthday at the early age of forty - seven; she had entered various notes in her diary, that could be taken ambiguously; so it is not known whether she had chosen to commit suicide from an overdose or whether it was that her body had just given up.

Although, Diego stated that the day Frida died  “was the most tragic day of his life” after having Frida cremated he said he would keep her ashes so that his could be put together with hers for the rest of time.

He did however get married again not long after Frida’s death and even though he only lived three years after Frida, his then wife refused to allow his remains to be put with Frida’s and he was interred in the Rotund, an area for Famous Men.

Frida’s house ‘The Blue House’ where she was brought up is now a popular museum in Coyoacan, Mexico, it contains several of her works and many of the artefacts from her everyday life, it is here that her ashes are on display within a pre-Columbian urn where Diego had intended to join her.


Frida Painting 1928

Frida and Diego

This is such a lovely contemporary image as well!

A very modern image of Frida

Frida Kahlo age 18 in February1926. Photo by Guillermo Kahlo

Places of Interest:

The Blue House. LaCasa Azalea- Museo Frida Kahlo      


Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo


Galleries exhibiting Kahlo’s Art:                                                                          

‘Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace & Hummingbird’’

                                     University of Texas:   www.hrc.utexasexhibitions/20



‘The Suicide of Dorothy Hale’’

             Phoenix Art Museum Arizona:


‘My Grandparents, My Parents and I’, ‘Fulong Chang’ and ‘Self Portrait with Cropped Hair’.

                                          Museum of Modern Art

Early Career work,                      

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

‘Still Life‘‘             

  Madison Museum of Modern Art

‘Self Portrait with Monkey‘‘                                       



Frida Kahlo ‘The Painter and Her Work’.

                                                         by Helga Prignitz-Poda    SCHEMER MOSEL.

Kahlo.                                                  by Lozano                              BULLFINCH.

Frida Kahlo ‘Portrait of an Icon‘ 

                                                                 by Margaret Hooks        BLOOMSBURY.

‘Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera‘  

                                            by Isabel Alcantara/Sandra Egnoff      PRESTEL.

‘Frida Kahlo’ Her Photos                

                                                             by Pablo Oriz Monastery     RM.

‘Frida Kahlo‘                               

                                               by Emma Dexter & Tanya Barson    TATE.


                                                              by Hayden Herrera           BLOOMSBURY.

‘The Diary of FRIDA KAHLO‘     

                                                                        by Carlos Fuentes              BLOOMSBURY.

Frida bringing Frida Kahlo’s Life & Art to Film.                                 

                                                                                                           SIMON & SCHUSTER.

‘Fridas Fiestas‘    

                                by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle.      POTTER.

Frida Kahlo ‘The Artist in The Blue House’.

                                                                 by Adventures in Art.       PRESTEL.

Born in mid December 1886 one of twin boys (his brother died at the age of two) from a well- to -do family in Mexico; starting drawing at the age of three, attended art school from 10 years old, was regarded as being highly talented.

At 19 he travelled to Paris and studied many different forms of art becoming part of the cubist movement he became friends with Picasso, Braque, and Cezanne he moved over to post Impressionism and entered a number of exhibitions creating considerable attention for his work.

Travelling through Italy he studied the Renaissance frescos.

On his return to Mexico the government funded Mexican Mural programme was commencing, and from then on he mainly painted frescos; he also joined the Communist movement,

The political system in Mexico became very volatile around this time,  he was now becoming known world wide, was persuaded to move to America, where Diego was commissioned to do murals in San Francisco;

Over several years they lived in various parts of America, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New York where Diego received more and more commissions and acclaim. They mingled with the famous of the time, film stars, dancers, political dignitaries and such like. 

By now Diego renounced his allegiance to the communist party.

Within his frescos he depicted many famous personalities and would make sketches of the proposed piece for the Principal of the relevant Institution to approve before actually commencing  the work.

Frida and Diego were well known as an artistic fashionable couple with his wife being well known for her art,  her style of dress as well as the company they kept.

In the fresco series Diego created ‘Detroit Industry’ (1932/3 Detroit Michigan USA) he was commissioned to work on 2 walls but was so excited at the project did the other two walls within the same price; the four walls, were each divided into several sections a total of almost 434 square metres; it is considered one of the 20th centuries finest outstanding achievements in monumental art.

Diego’s work was becoming controversial, critics considered there were pornographic, blasphemous and communistic elements within these studies. When he had chosen to include Lenin within the Rockefeller mural in New York it turned out to be his final work in America, causing much confrontation; so much so that his refusal to paint out the character from his work ended with his being paid off and dismissed from the job. (The whole work was eventually demolished 1934) they both left the country in disgrace, as this was considered to be showing his approval of communistic principals even though he had said he was not supporting the communist party, his views and works proclaimed the evils of capitalism and positive aspects of socialism.

Although America was purported to be the ‘Land of the Free’, when it actually came to it, Diego’s clientele refused to allow him the freedom to display his political views within his art.

The couple returned to Mexico where Diego had commissioned a pair of houses to be built in Bauhaus style; they were both cubes with an adjoining bridge; in order that he and Frida could have their own space; he had the bigger pink one with a large studio at the top with plenty of light, and she the smaller blue cube.

By now the political situation within Mexico had become much more stable so they were welcomed back.

Upon their return Diego was allowed to continue and finish his work on the main stairwell in the National Palace in Mexico City.

This prolific artist had, as well as all these works continued to paint smaller works on hardboard, canvas, wood and so on depicting families, Indian children and mothers and babies in particular; evoking tremendous emotion and intimacy; works of around one meter or so square, this shows the talent and versatility of this giant of a man.

They both had many extra marital affairs (including Diego having had a fling with Frida’s sister, that totally wrecked Frida’s world)

The political allegiances of this couple though, overrode the infidelities that they both indulged in, Frida was known to have had affairs with both men and women; in particular Frida had a liaison with Leon Trotsky (both Diego and Frida were committed Trotskyists) so consequently their marriage was turbulent and became very frustrating for them both; this together with his temper and violence led to their divorce in 1939. They remarried two years later; with conditions.

Rivera continued to paint and became close friends with the Bretons and the Trotskys, traveling around scenic areas of Mexico and painting surrealist works.

This led to Rivera being invited back to San Francisco and Diego and Frida decided to remarry while working in the USA; here Frida became fully recognised as an artist in her own right. She had to have surgery on her spine in the USA and returned to The Blue House in Mexico afterwards. Rivera joined her there after completing the work in San Francisco.

By 1943 the Mexican National College (for artists, scholars, musicians, writers)  invited both Frida and Diego to become part of the teaching team; where Rivera would take students out into the field to paint and draw life and nature as it really was, rather than within the studio or classroom.

Jose Guadalupe Posada was a cartoonist illustrator of the late 19th early 20th century. He had sketched a figure and called her Calavera Catrina (Dame Catrina) - she became the symbol of the aristocratic vanity representing the Mother of the ‘Day of the Dead Celebrations’, her fame has continued to increase to this day.

It is not absolutely clear that Diego met Posada (died in 1913) but it is known that Diego revered him for his work.

The transportable 15 metre  mural, ‘Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park’  1947/8 (15m x 4.8m)(originally on the wall of Hotel del Prado before it was damaged by earthquake and demolished) as with much of Rivera’s work, depicts various notable characters including Frida and La Catrina within the scene.

Diego’s popularity and demands for his work continued to increase! even though his wife Frida became confined to hospital, he continued to work and took a room in the hospital and was able to be near her over night-times. They had both tried several times to be accepted to the communist party again but each time were rejected. However Frida died at the age of 47 (1954) Rivera requested to use the communist flag to drape her coffin; and this was how he became re-accepted into the party.

Even at a young age Diego was a philanderer, having lived and married for some ten years in Paris with Angelina Beloff  a Russian woman 5 years his senior (one of his models), who had given birth to a son Diego who died at two years of age. During this time Rivera had an affair with another of his models Maria Vorobieff- Stebelski with whom he had fathered a daughter Marika;  he left them all, never to return or communicate with them again.

diego rivera

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la      
Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez             1886 -to 1957

His very vast, detailed and complex murals tell stories of the revolution, depicting scenes of preparation for and of the  conflicts, of work, industry, culture and history to name just a few of his subjects.

In 1922 he married Guadalupe Marin and had two daughters Ruth and Guadalupe. 

In 1929 Frida Kahlo married Diego she was 22 years old and 20 years his junior; he was very gross, she tiny in comparison.

A good friend lent him her house in Acapulco to recuperate for a few months, where he painted a large number of very small sized sunsets, emphasising peace, nature, his patriotism his love for life, tranquility and his need for harmony; he also painted the cultural depictions he had acquired during his journey from the Soviet Union, National and traditional folk costumes of Poland and Germany.

Motherhood : Angelina and the child -Diego 1916

Detroit Industry North Wall 1932/33 Institute of Arts

Diego and Frida

Diego and Frida’s Cube houses

Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Park 1948

Lupe Marin 1938

Diego spent his 70th birthday quietly at home with close friends and family, these new works were displayed in an exhibition. He visited the house where he had been born, and wept.

He died 24th November 1957 in his studio, heart failure; hundreds attended the funeral, as they had done Frida’s.

He had given the Blue House to the nation as a museum and his wishes were that his ashes should be mingled with Frida’s and they would be together forever. But his wishes were not granted, he was interred in the Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City at the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons a site that honours those who are considered to have exalted the civic, national and human values of Mexico.

Even though his work seems obviously politically directed ‘socialist realism’ Rivera actually drew on many historical art influences, Italian Renaissance, classical,  Pre -Columbian sculpture, cubism and surrealism from his contemporaries, but ultimately his work was created intuitively.

Frida’s Father was of German - Jewish decent he had emigrated to Mexico in 1891 when he was nineteen years of age, his father had remarried after his mother’s death and his step - mother had funded his trip. Carl Wilhelm Kahl changed his name when he landed in Mexico to the Spanish form of his name Guillermo Kahlo at first very impoverished working as a salesman, later luckily becoming employed by a fashionable Mexican jeweller and photographer; where he trained to become a professional photographer.

He married a Mexican woman who died in childbirth when having their third child. Later marrying his employer’s daughter, Frida’s mother; Matilde Calderon y Gonzales, (of Spanish /Indian decent) she sent Guillermo’s 2 children from his former marriage to live in a convent, Frida did not approve, making it evident in many of her writings. Frida was the third of their four girls.

Frida Kahlo, emotional, passionate, romantic, volatile woman suffered with physical pain and emotional anguish, although she was quite an academic; having taken up her art by default after an accident while travelling in a trolley bus from school; although it is thought she contracted what might be known as a polio leg at the age of six.

Her husband (this was his third marriage) Diego Rivera twenty years her senior, was a philanderer.

Whether reaction to, or part of Frida Kahlo’s makeup she also had her fair share of extra marital affairs; with both men and women; Josephine Baker American/ French, singer, dancer, actress, Georgia O’Keefe the American painter. Kahlo was also linked to such names as  Leon Trotsky, the Hungarian born photographer Nickolas Muray, the Spanish painter Jose Bartoli and Andre Breton as well as his wife, with whom there were  also rumours of a relationship.

Frida Kahlo became known as the most famous woman artist from Mexico of the 20th century. She - as with many artists, had a very full, emotional, complex and extremely tragic life. Painting, loving, living life to the full and even to excess...Her love for her painting developed over time and was not an obsession from the outset.

Having to spend many months in bed in a body cast because her injuries were so extreme; her father gave her a mirror to work with as she lay in bed to help her with her painting.

During most of the first 10 years of their marriage Frida suffered numerous miscarriages and had to have abortions, due to her body not being able to withstand the traumas of carrying a child. This meant being administered immense amounts of medication so much so that she probably became addicted to some of them; she also took to drink to help forget the pain.

Her painting techniques are extremely laboured using small fine brushes and brushstrokes; building up the paint in order to create imagery; completely in contrast to that of her husband’s vast murals.

Much of Kahlo’s work is autobiographical referencing from her environment, her life and her emotions. Using symbolism that she borrows from her heritage, and the history of her country, her canvases are magical, contents include depictions of many traditional rituals such as voodoo and magic; they are alchemy within themselves; I (Katrina Atkinson)often feel the canvases can cast spells! Frida would often give her paintings as gifts; some with hidden meanings, for instance it is said she gave to an ex- lover of Diego’s -- The Flower Basket as a gift of forgiveness.

Throughout his life he had still continued to paint portraits; and now in later life his portraits included people close to him such as Lupe Marin his first Mexican wife and her two daughters.

In 1955 Diego married Emma Hurtado; she had opened a gallery dedicated to Rivera to sell his work.

He found he had cancer just before this marriage and gave his new wife all his paintings (that didn’t belong to clients) to display, in the Diego Gallery.

In order to get treatment for his cancer Diego travelled with his wife to Soviet Union. On his return, he journeyed through Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany, at these places he made preparatory sketches for oil paintings he proposed doing on his return home.

Frida painting 1928

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón;

              July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954)

Sunset over Acapulco Bay one of a number experimenting with colour 1956

© Katrina Atkinson 2011