Updated: Nov 17
The cognoscente of Mexican cuisine represents the culture and history of Mexicans. Hence, whenever I read about great movements like Chicano or Mexicayotl, it fills my blood with great energy, romanticizing oxygen circulation in my veins. With this fact in mind, today, I am introducing you to one such artist who represents the rich culture of Mexico through her artworks. Her vivid innovation with figures can make you think even more than the bottomless ocean crust or the earth's core. She is someone who has a powerful imagination, which through her artwork, has shown those things that we can't even imagine. Like an angel in her own virtual world, she can cross all the boundaries of love and return back to the same place. Can you guess her name from your favourite artists that belonged to Mexico? If you don't, let me introduce you to her. Our inspiration and a great artist of feminist art, Frida Kahlo!
Her full name sounds Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón. She not only revolutionized the naive folk art of Mexico but also disseminated her legacy around the world. As a self-portraitist, she uses Mexican artworks and nature as inspiration for her works centered on terror, pain, and suffering. You might be surprised that out of her 200 artworks, 55 are her self-portraits. When described by critiques, her painting style often carries the naive folk art described as a surrealist or magical realist. However, she always conveyed it as the reality of her life. Frida Kahlo had many sufferings due to her physical disabilities, but her artwork was so intense that even Picasso could not resist appreciating it. Before we move on to her famous paintings, let us go back to her life through her childhood days, reading Frida Kahlo biography.
Frida Kahlo: Childhood And Family.
Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón
Date of birth
6 July 1907
Date of death
13 July 1954
Modern Art, Cubism, and Symbolism
Born on 6th July 1907 in Coyoacan, a village on the outskirts of Mexico City, she was the daughter of Guillermo Kahlo and Matilde Calderón y González. Her childhood is filled with love and inspiration from her dad as she did not have good relations with others. At the age of six, she contracted polio, resulting in her right leg being thin and short. Her father taught her about colors, literature, nature, and philosophy and even inspired her to take up sports, even though it was considered unwholesome for women. Furthermore, she often helped her father with his small photography studio. While describing her relationship with her mother, Frida Kahlo writes,
kind, active and intelligent, but also calculating, cruel and fanatically religious.
Her childhood was sad as her parents' relationship lacked any expression of warmth.
On one horrific day in September 1925, when she and her boyfriend Arias was travelling in a wooden bus, they met an accident while leaving a life long suffering to her. She suffered multiple fractures to her pelvic bone, resulting in fatigue and back pain throughout her life. Throughout her life, she had 32 surgeries that led her to wear 28 medical corsets for extended periods.
She married Diego Rivera in 1925, who was 20 years older than her and already had two wives, when her parents disapproved of her relationship with Arias, her first sweetheart. Her marriage with him was not so up to the mark and bone-chilling since he had multiple affairs with different women. Though he was mischievous with his deeds on loyalty their bond of love or friendship was innate. Even Freda Kahlo had romantic relationships with men and women; however, she always found it tough to find compassion with her mate.
Her After Life, Marriage Life, And More.
After she married Diego, they travelled to the United States, first in San Francisco, and painted murals there. Her love affair with Hungarian American photographer Nicolas started from here as their marriage was too spoiled and feted. Furthermore, she travelled to New York City, where she interviewed Detroit, though she never liked the place due to the colonist Americans. During their time in Detroit, Frida Kahlo suffered an abortion due to her complicated pregnancy. In 1933, they returned to Mexico after she was nostalgic about her place. However, their return brought a frivolous gap in their marriage that made Diego move with Fredas' little sister Christina as an affair that deeply impacted her. In 1939, when they separated due to mutual infidelities, she made the masterpieces of her artwork that were most famous. After she divorced him, her career was at its peak, and she painted more paintings than in the last eight years. Though they reunited after a year, this time, it was worse than anything. She resumed her political activities, joining Four International and becoming a member of the solitary committee to provide aid to Republicans in the Spanish war.
As a result of her tough personal life and painful health conditions, in the 1950s, she mostly spent time in hospital. It was in 1953, that she hosted her first solo exhibition, arriving in an ambulance with a bed. In 1954, she died due to an overdose of drugs. Her diary notes include the following words a few days before her death-
"I joyfully await the exit – and I hope never to return – Frida."
Despite the substantial and rough patches of life she witnessed, she always painted and made her profession her passion and love. Returning to her artworks, let us discuss Frida Kahlo famous paintings that you would love to read on. We discussed a bit of history of the Frida Kahlo so that you could relate to her paintings.
12 Frida Kahlo Famous Paintings.
1. The Two Fridas.
Frida Kahlo painted this oil painting in 1939, the same year she divorced her husband, although they remarried after a year, as I previously mentioned. The artwork resembles the mirroring effect with both Fridas sitting in different attires, holding hands. Look at the first Frida, wearing a white Victorian costume with her heart damaged and her veins surpassing the other Frida's heart and one cut from the scissor. Blood is dripping from the scissor-cut vein onto the dress with those tiny red flowers.
The other Frida, modeling a blue and green dress with a yellow style, have a healthy heart, and her left hand has a small picture of Rivera. The stormy background reflects a dark time. This painting is not just an artwork but a representation of the anguish; she had in all those years of life during medical emergencies. Also, some critiques say that the first Frida represents the time when she was in a relationship with Rivera, and her sentiments were deeply hurt by his affair with her younger sister Christina, whereas the other Frida represents the after-divorce version of her.
This is one among Frida Kahlo famous paintings that gives an idea of different shades of colors with a three-dimensional view. The use of bright colors with face features as brows connected and little use of blush throughout the cheeks is noteworthy. The sitting posture is relaxed, another mention or takeaway from this painting. The vein is the conventional connection between the two Fridas that says that despite all the odd differences, her unity with herself is impeccable. One can also notice the cultural representation of Mexico through her dress and the chronic hardship of her life during Rivera's multiple affairs.
2. The Broken Column.
The oil painting by Frida Kahlo represents the barren loneliness, pain, trauma, and suffering, which was her primary theme. One can see that the dark blue color of the sky contrasts with the earthquake & barren land, which amplifies the loneliness of companionship in her life. Frida has painted herself in a white long dress with a naked torso where her chest is visible. The tear-dropped eyes witness her miserable condition during the spinal surgery. Her face is pale, with sharp features and hair open. She is holding the lower cloth while covering her lower segment of the body. The iron column running inside her flesh skin coming up to her neck is witnessing the ongoing pain and trauma she had in her chronic illness. Furthermore, she covers her skin with iron nails corresponding to Saint Sebastian, running on her right leg, a sign of polio in her right leg.
She has widely used religious symbols like the crucification of Christ, and the lower white cloth, which may be because of her upbringing from her mom. Additionally, her face and even the background witness the lifelong and year-long pain she have gone through that nobody can ever imagine. It also intensifies the feeling of living in even the harshest and most painful time. The nails also exhibit pain, which she had in her whole body while she continued to work and live.
3. Frieda and Diego Rivera.
Frida Khalo painted the artwork with oil colors just after two years of her marriage with Rivera. She is wearing a long green dress with a bead necklace and a red shawl, blush on her face. Her hair band and earrings are also part of her beautiful attire, representing the Mexican culture. Rivera wears a grey suit and a blue shirt, with an enormous brown belt. The face of Frida tilts to his side, and he holds her hand but with a loose grip that senses his womanizer's attitude because he was in an affair with a woman at that time. Frida has always portrayed her own life with her art, and this artwork shows her marriage relations.
The peace-loving pigeon carrying a note is again her style, including symbolism in her paintings.
The note says,
"Here you see us, me Frieda Kahlo, with my dearest husband Diego Rivera. I painted these pictures in the delightful city of San Francisco California for our companion Mr. Albert Bender, and it was in April of the year 1931.”
She witnesses in her paintings that Rivera can never be anyone's husband because of his multiple affairs, albeit he is a great companion. Her marriage delicacies were undoubtedly the turning point of her life. The reason it comes in the list of Frida Kahlo famous paintings is because of her innate feeling and love behind her husband.
4. Memory, The Heart.
When Deigo was in an affair with Frida's sister Christina, it deeply broke her heart, and after her divorce, she painted this oil painting in 1937. The artwork represents her anguish, pain, and heartbreak over time. She is standing with an expressionless face but with tears dropped on her blushed cheeks. She is near a sea with one foot on the beach, which represents the violent time of her married life. The darker clouds in the background also agitate her stormy emotional turbulences, which she is surfing on. She is wearing a European dress with a rod of cupid passing through a hole where her heart must reside. Her heart enlarges on the ground with the bloodstreams flowing in the foreground that also witness her extreme pain. Maybe she wanted to sail from a boat leaving behind all these miseries and harrowing memories. Furthermore, there is a school dress hanging and a Mexican attire with one arm. It may be telling us about the gap in her life from childhood to her adolescence when she lives in Mexico. The red thread connects the school dress, Mexican attire, and herself, where her arm hangs with that of the Mexican dress. It might indicate to us that only the culture of Mexico and her life in Mexico inspires her and makes her happy in those tough times.
The juxtaposition of good and bad times in her life portrayed by the artist is terribly painful to us.
5. The Frame By Frida.
The Frame is the self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, which she has filled with bright and beautiful colors. On the boundary, she has made butterflies and flowers that are engrossing. In the center, she has portrayed herself with her hair tied in a braided-bun style with a yellow flower that caught our sight. Her hair above her upper lip represents her true feminine character, inspiring us to respect our bodies as we are. Due to her bisexual character and her inspirational paintings, making us realize that everyone has beauty inside them, she is an LGBTQ icon today. The artwork is alluring due to the bright color usage and the simple bodily beauty concept.
6. The Suicide Of Dorothy Hale.
Dorothy Hale is an American and Ziegfeld showgirl; who took her life on 21 October 1938 by jumping off from the top window of a luxury apartment in New York, wearing her favourite black dress with a corsage of yellow roses. She did so because her husband died, following her few failed relationships and career, due to which she had financial hardships. Clare, one of her close friends, hired Frida Kahlo for her portrait painting as a gift to her mother. She assumed it was to be an ordinary portrait of her that serves as a remembrance, but when Frida Kahlo painted this artwork, everyone was shocked.
It was one of the most controversial paintings of all time.
The artwork is among Frida Kahlo famous paintings list. It has a lavish luxury apartment with a brownish v-covering. Dorothy is painted in three forms- on her balcony, falling between the hazy clouds, and finally on the ground with blood flowing and eyes open. The artwork shows the pain of someone or a woman who has lost all hopes and figured out the end plan as suicide. Maybe there are hundreds of woman who faces the identical condition of failed relationship and despair by male desertion; the painting is indirectly about their mindset. It is not to provoke anyone to take their lives but a remark of end of everything for those who suffer in failed relationships.
7. What the Water Gave Me.
While Frida Kahlo painted this masterpiece, she was having a tenuous relationship with her husband, and they were frequently bickering, and having extramarital affairs. Her artwork consists of numerous instances when she felt different emotions. Her pain for the failed marriage is reflected in the man lounging on the beach, carelessly choking a naked woman, and Frida sees it all from a string at a distance. The man is none other but her husband.
There is one other painting, "Two Nudes in a Forest," by Frida Kahlo that showcases the same.
After living in Mexico City for four years and previously in the United States, the couple moved to Mexico in 1938. Even after the couple moved to Mexico, Rivera's popularity as a mural painter made them visit America frequently. In contrast, Kahlo was a staunch Communist and disliked American consumerism. It is conspicuous in the painting that her pain at being deported to America by Rivera is shown by the way the man and woman in the painting pull, choke and rush towards the island with the Empire State Buildings.
A series of surgeries and her serious accident made her incapable of being pregnant. Her life was full of pain and extreme stress that she showed here by the flowing blood and her left foot being disfigured. Further, the patriarchial society placed another trauma on her head for not conceiving and being incapable of having a child.
The painting is nothing but a representation of her all past and present memories that it had. The water reflected her with all those heartbreaking memories and pain she suffered.
8. Two Nudes in a Forest .
The oil painting was a gift to Frida Kahlo's girlfriend and Mexican movie star Dolores del Rio. Frida Kahlo has never hidden her bisexual character, even with her husband, so she always painted those. In this artwork, the two naked women- one with brown skin and the other with white skin, are painted in an intimate posture. The white-skinned is resting on the lap of the other one with a side profile. The stormy dark clouds represent the gloomy time, which they overcome with each other's affection. The monkey is evil here, maybe the society that continues to knock on other lives. The entangled branches of the tree represent the complications one has in their life. The painting is also a part of 'What The Water Gave Me.'
The faces are gentle and compassionate with an intentional violent background that is idyllic. The nude art contemplates the purity of love and a confrontation between a dream and reality.
9. Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace And Hummingbird.
Here, in this painting, Frida Kahlo self interestingly portrayed herself by facing us with the background of leaves and dragonflies. Her neck adorns the necklace of thorns, where it suffers pain and bleeds from places. These represent the hardships in her life and the medical pain she always carried in herself with an expressionless face. It looks like she was in the habit of tolerating that pain in herself with enormous patience. The black monkey and the black cat with viscous-blue eyes are evil and a sign of death. Usually, a hummingbird is a sign of positivity and life, but here it is lifeless and black, entangled in her wings in that thorn necklace. Maybe Frida portrayed herself in her form with the burdens of the society of not bearing a child, the patriarchial difficulties, and her failed marriage.
The artwork fills itself with different colors where her hair is tied in braid-bun style, giving a nest or home to butterflies. The composition reflects her patience and endurance, which she had in all her physical, emotional, and mental trauma. Her sharp facial features with deep anguish and agony in her eyes are also noteworthy.
10. The Wounded Table.
The oil painting by Frida Kahlo represents her central theme of terror, pain, and suffering. Kahlo painted this artwork when she divorced her husband Rivera, and despair, loneliness, and anguish surrounded her. It typically represented death and her love for her identity to be Mexican. There are typically seven figures in the composition on a wooden table. Frida is in the center, with her right side painted with a Judas figure and the children of sister Christina and on her left side, a Nayarit figure and a Skeleton are visible, with a deer at the end on the table.
Coming on her symbolic significance, which she opted for this surrealistic painting, let us look at each one closely.
Frida Kahlo is sitting with her long dress, hair curled to the hand of a skeleton, and right hand in the form of a terracotta Nayarit figure, sitting next to her. Her neck is slit, where blood is dripping. These Nayarit figures are grave form and a part of Mexican culture. Frida feeds her blood to this figure that represents her sacrifice to Mexicanidad.
The skeleton has a vertical iron column in it. It says about the pain during her accident and is also a sign of death. Maybe after each operation, she felt nearer to death, so she painted it here. It is not a normal skeleton but a figure in Aztec mythology: Mictlancíhuatl, or the Goddess of the Dead, who died herself in childbirth. It also means that she still had somewhere in her thoughts that the accident already broke her from inside. The children you see are the reflections of her mental state that she was incapable of becoming a mother and her unfortunate abortions. The Judas figure represents mortality, which tells the story of her life that even in the darkest and most strenuous times of pain and medical emergencies, she lived. The deer is a favourite pet of Frida, which also represents a problem with the right foot in Aztec culture.
The table has four legs in the form of a human who tells about the God of Aztec that represents rebirth and death. Frida Kahlo portrayed her whole life in this single artwork where her misery is visible to all of us.
11. The Wounded Deer.
This painting depicts Frida Kahlo with a young deer's head and was also fatally wounded by arrows. In the background, there is a forest with dead trees and broken branches, implying a sense of fear and despair. A stormy, lightning-lit sky looms far away, bringing some hope, but her dear will not reach it.
Frida Kahlo underwent spinal surgery in New York in 1946. Her surgery was supposed to relieve her of severe back pain, but it did not work. As a result, she painted this to express her disappointment. Physical and emotional pain followed her return to Mexico. Her painting was made up of an image of her like a stag with antlers atop her head. The stag is bleeding from arrow wounds. The artist wrote down the word 'Carma' in the lower-left corner, which means fate or destiny.
The colors in the painting are very much delicate and bright, but they show the despair and misery of the artist's life. She used deer as her subject as she loved to pet it: its surrogate mother. The use of arrows again brings the symbolism of Christ's crucification that she showed to express her pain. Blood streams from the body with her pale and expressionless face. It looks like she wanted to run from her miserable time, but instead of her efforts, she fails in every single of them.
12. The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Senor Xototl.
The oil painting on the canvas portrays the embracing nature of Frida Kahlo and her compassionate love for Rivera. The artwork divides itself into two parts- One with a dusky night with a shining ball and the other with hazy-blue bright clouds with a half-face. It represents the sparkling and darker sides of Frida's married life. She is sitting with a child in her hand, who is Rivera. She says in her notes with her maternal feelings: At every moment he is my child, my child born every moment, diary, from myself. It simply means he adored pampering, and Frida treated him like a baby. On the other side, her expressionless face with a few tears shows her failed marriage with him because of his extra-marital affairs. She also writes: Diego has never been and never will be anyone's husband.
With the thorns and the cactus plants, she reveals the physical, emotional, and psychological hardships she faced with Rivera.
Upon her back, she has a pierced breast showing a drop of milk representative of Mexican Earth. To her, the universe and earth lie only in her home city, Mexico. She has included symbols like the sleeping animal and roots of love to amplify her love and motherhood in the artwork. The composition under Frida Kahlo famous paintings is the connection between her, Diego, Universe and Mexico.
Frida Kahlo was one of the famous artists of Mexico who painted her reality with symbolism and surrealistic theme. In her life, she suffered enormously with pain, but the hope to live and the love she had in her heart for Rivera were innate and beautiful. Frida always disclosed in her artworks about her ongoing life, and we can see her patience and endurance in every situation. Her paintings are not only an inspiration to live life but also for her bisexual character and feministic ideology. From the deep bottom of her heart, we only see the Mexican culture and the innate love for her home country. Frida Kahlo is an artist like a bird that flies to greater heights even when her wings are clipped by despair, anguish, and pain.