Van Gogh •
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Learn more about Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was born in Coyoicoàn, Mexico City, to a Mexican mother
and German father. At the age of fifteen, when she was preparing to enter medical school, she suffered a road accident. Though she never fully recovered, and her life would be increasingly filled with pain and disability, she began painting during her recuperation from the accident. She sent paintings to the well-established Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Rivera encouraged Kahlo, and in 1928 the two painters married; their stormy relationship would last for the rest of Kahlo's life.
Largely self-taught, Kahlo was decisively influenced by the starkness, high color, and bold, naive figuration of the popular and religious arts of Mexico. She connected those arts with developments in French and Spanish surrealism, in which modernist abstraction gave way to realistic
images placed in unexpected-even bizarre and nightmarish-juxtaposition. One of Kahlo's early supporters was the leader of the French surrealists, Andre Breton, who in 1939 sponsored an exhibition of her work in Paris. Her painting became intently focused on a series of self-portraits, both homage to and parody of images of the Madonna in painted votive objects. In some of Kahlo's portraits, such as "The Frame" (1938), the artist presents herself with long hair and dressed in the brightly colored garb of Mexican tradition. In others, such as "The Velvet Dress" (1926), she wears her hair in a sophisticated Western style and is dressed in European attire.
As her work progressed, Kahlo began to emphasize not only her thick, joined eyebrows but also the soft, dark hair on her upper lip. Thus, while the portraits often express personal suffering, they also reflect on political and social struggles involving the relationships among native and European cultures and men and women.