The Dramatic Story Behind the Portrait of a Woman | The Thinking Blog ~ Knowledge Grows When Shared
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03 September 2007

The Dramatic Story Behind the Portrait of a Woman

Seeing an artwork is one thing, understanding the feelings behind it is another. One tends to appreciate the brush stokes of a piece when you know more about the person painting the canvas. Frida Kahlo is one of those artists who earns fame only after her death. Did you know that during her lifetime, Frida created some 200 paintings of her experiences in life, physical and emotional pain and her turbulent relationship with her husband?

In 1953, when Frida Kahlo had her first solo exhibition in Mexico (the only one held in her native country during her lifetime), a local critic wrote:

"It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography."

Kahlo was noted for her exceptional beauty and unconventional appearance, declining to remove her facial hair (she had a small mustache and unibrow which she exaggerated in self portraits) and donning flamboyantly-styled clothing inspired by traditional Mexican dress. She did not originally plan to become an artist; Her goal in life was to become a doctor. A survivor of polio, she entered a pre-med program in Mexico City.

At the age of 18, she was seriously injured in a bus accident and this changed the course of her life forever. She ended up trapped in a body cast for months and spent over a year in bed recovering from fractures to her spine, collarbone and ribs, a shattered pelvis, and shoulder and foot injuries. She endured more than 30 operations in her lifetime, and during her convalescence she began to paint.

Despite her life of suffering and pain, Frida Kahlo was a vibrant, loose extroverted character whose everyday speech was filled with profanities. She had been a tomboy in her youth and carried her fervor throughout her life. She was a heavy smoker, drank liquor (especially tequila) in excess, was openly bisexual, sang off-color songs, and told equally ribald jokes to the guests of the wild parties that she hosted.

Interesting? If this much information was not enough, you can read the full biography here. Alternatively, there are over 23 books and 9 films you can choose from - I recommend Frida, a biographic drama based on the artist's life:

..and here is the infamous Tango scene with Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd dancing..

Even one of the many documentary films about her is available online at Google Video [21 minutes]:

Her artwork: Be careful because some of her paintings may not be safe for work [NSFW]. There is Self-Portraits with a short story (if you like to have some explanations alongside) or view a nice collection of selected works on a single page here. If you have become a Frida Kahlo fan by now then you should see the complete list of paintings by year.

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