New month, new artist! This month I’m circling back to Frida Kahlo. I studied Frida last January but I'm ready to do it again. I've got lots of new ideas and I bet learn even more this time around. This is the book that the movie (with Selma Hayek) is based on. It’s 400+ pages. maybe I’ll finish this time?!
One new thing I've already learned is just how large her family was! (When you draw it all out like this, it makes an impression!) Her father Guillermo had three children with his first wife Maria, the second died as an infant and Maria died giving birth to their third child. He quickly remarried and they had five children, his third, a son, who also died as an infant. Frida was the fourth child with wife Matilde. (Matilde was also the name of Jean-Michel Basuiat’s mom)
Frida Kahlo was born in La Casa Azul (the blue house) in the neighborhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City on July 6th, 1907. Some of her first memories are of the Mexican revolution. She and her sister Cristina were only 11 months apart and very good friends. I ran across these photos of little Frida taken by her father, a professional photographer.
At the age of 6 Frida contracted polio. She was bedridden for months. She recovered but because of it her right leg was shorter than her left. She wore layers of socks to hide the difference and as an adult modified her right shoe to make it less noticeable. Interesting to me that all three artists I’ve studied this year had a significant illness or injury that left them bedridden as a child.
Frida was very close to her father and often assisted him in his studio and darkroom. He schooled her in photography and retouching photos with tiny paintbrushes. I think it’s interesting that he took lots of self portraits looking at the camera with the same intense stare that she had.
After Frida recovered she was encouraged to play sports to regain her strength. She became even more daring and adventurous, climbing trees and performing stunts on skates or a bicycle. The neighborhood kids called her “Peg Leg Frida,” a name that she later used for herself signing letters “Peg Leg Frida of Coyoacán of the Coyotes.
At the age of 15, she became a student at the National Preparatory School. She rode the trolley every day to Mexico City. She was one of only 35 girls out of 2,000 students. There she took courses to later become a doctor.
At the National Preparatory School Frida joined Los Cachuchas (The Caps), a group of students who wore knit hats to symbolize their refusal to adhere to social norms. They were well-read and politically active teens who also liked to prank teachers. Mexico was rebuilding and fostering a new identity. Out of that effort came the mural project—the government hired muralists to paint public buildings with messages of national pride.
Diego Rivera was hired to paint a mural outside the school’s theatre. He was 36 at the time, married to his second wife Lupe Marin and had two daughters. Frida was fascinated with him—his politics, his charisma, and of course his art.