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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Frida Kahlo

July 1, 2019

The legendary Mexican artist, painter, and self-portraitist is one of the subjects of Silver Dolphin Books’ new series, Wild Bios. These board books for pre-readers expose young minds to great minds by presenting them as animals. In this case, it’s Frida Catlo! Here are some fascinating facts about the real Frida Kahlo.

What’s in a Name

Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon, and went by the name Frieda, derived from the German word for peace. At age 25, she de-emphasized the German spelling, and changed it to Frida.

An Artist is Born

Kahlo was born in July 1907 in Mexico City, but when she started to make a name for herself as an artist — and proud representative of Mexican art and culture — she told everyone that she was born in 1910, the same year as the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. (Although some historians say she changed the date simply to lie about her age.)

Heritage

“Frida,” as she is familiarly known in Mexico, is one of the most famous and important artists in the country’s history. Her mother was part of an indigenous Mexican family while her father was of German ancestry.

Unfortunate Sickness

At the age of six, Kahlo contracted polio, which left her right leg significantly shorter than her left, and she covered it up with long, traditional Mexican clothing, which became a fashion staple for the artist.

Recovering with Painting

At the age of 18, Kahlo and her boyfriend were involved in a bus crash. That left 11 leg fractures and a crushed foot, and she was laid up in bed for a year recovering from the accident and numerous surgeries. To alleviate boredom, her father (an artist and photographer) gave her his paints and brushes, and her mother had someone construct a special easel that allowed her to paint in bed. That, along with a mirror placed above the bed, got Kahlo started on self-portraits, of which she’d make more than 50 in her lifetime.

Artists in Love

In 1929, Kahlo married muralist and fresco painter Diego Rivera, who at the time (and for many decades after) reigned as Mexico’s most celebrated artist. The marriage was tumultuous; Rivera left his second wife for Kahlo, and both carried on affairs. They divorced in 1939, only to remarry the next year.

A Louvre-ly Accomplishment

Despite Rivera overshadowing her in her lifetime, Kahlo sold her work The Frame to the Louvre in 1939, marking the first work by a Mexican artist to be shown in a major European museum.

Frida en Vogue

In October 1937, Kahlo got some major exposure to American audiences via a very unlikely source. She appeared in a pictorial and article in Vogue magazine called “Señoras of Mexico.”

Solo

Kahlo’s first solo exhibition in Mexico came in April 1953 at the Galeria Arte Contemporaneo, a little over a year before her death. On opening night, the artist was on bed rest, but she wasn’t going to miss her big night for anything. So, she arrived by ambulance, and hung out in bed, right there in the museum.

Home Sweet Home

Rivera and Kahlo lived in her childhood home, La Casa Azul, or “the Blue House,” a bright-blue house in Mexico City. Kahlo also died there at age 47 in 1954, and shortly thereafter Rivera gave away the house so that it could be turned into what it is today: The Frida Kahlo Museum.

Elijah-Lovkoff/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus


 

Wild Bios: Frida Catlo

Meet one of history’s greatest figures in this adorable board book with an animal twist! Famous Meowxican painter Frida Catlo was a pioneer for female artists. She always painted from the heart, even in the face of health problems and personal struggles. With hilarious puns and colorful illustrations, this book brings Frida’s legacy to life for babies and parents alike!

Want to learn more about our Wild Bios series?
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