Now we come to the first woman artist in my A-Z list, and fascinating one. Frida Kahlo is one of Mexico’s greatest painters, who was married to another one, Diego Rivera, in a stormy relationship that saw them married, divorced, remarried, unfaithful to each other, and often living apart.
Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits, largely due to the isolation she experienced in her youth. She suffered from polio as a child, and in adolescence was severely injured in a bus accident that left her in pain and poor health her whole life. As an artist, she painted her pain into her pictures, particularly her self-portraits. Some of them are uncompromising and startling, such as “The Broken Column”:
Her bright colors and primitive style express Mexican culture, as does her use of monkeys and colorful birds.
Frida and Diego were communists, and they became friendly with Leon Trotsky, who they met when he received asylum in Mexico. He and Frida had an affair (though both were married at the time). Trotsky spent time living with both of them before he was assassinated in Mexico.
Frida Kahlo died at the age of forty-seven, possibly from complications of her various injuries and illnesses.
She has gained worldwide popularity since her death. She was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2001, the first Hispanic woman to be so recognized. Salma Hayek played her in a 2002 movie, Frida, and she and Diego are major characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Lacuna (2009).