There are certain legendary icons who we know on a first-name basis. Those who only become bigger stars, inspirations, and symbols over time, who we continue to honor even decades after their death. This all definitely rings true of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. We’re still inspired by her art, her timeless style, her commitment to not giving into Eurocentric beauty standards, and the empowering quotes she lived by.
Frida Kahlo is a symbol of feminism, women’s empowerment, pride for the LGBTQIA community, Latinx community, artists, and unique individuals, who all gain inspiration from knowing that one of their own made it, and made it big.
If you’re Latinx, there’s a good chance you are a major Frida Kahlo fan and know a lot of her artistic work. But do you know a lot about her? We wanted to delve deeper and dug up a handful of facts that everyone should know about iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Frida wasn’t Kahlo’s first name
We all know the name Frida Kahlo. But what if we told you that Frida wasn’t Kahlo’s first name, or technically her name at all?! Mind blown, right?! Frida Kahlo was actually born Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderon. The name Frieda came from the German word, friede/frieden, which means “peace.” Some sources say that she changed it to the Latinx spelling of Frida, while others say that she was born Frida and would change it to the German spelling in honor of her father, Guillermo (born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo, in Germany).
Frida was said to have died in the same house she was born in.
La Casa Azul, located in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico, is eternally tied to Frida Kahlo. She would tell people she was born in the bright blue house, although there is evidence to suggest that the artist was actually nearby at her maternal grandmother’s house. But Frida was definitely raised in La Casa Azul, and lived here for a time with husband, and fellow artist, Diego Rivera. In 1954, Frida Kahlo died in an upstairs room in the cobalt blue house, at the age of 47; today, the building houses the popular Frida Kahlo Museum.
She fibbed about her birth year because of her patriotism
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907. However, she would tell people that she was born in 1910. This was done so she could coincide the year of her birth with the birth of the Mexican Revolution.
Frida Kahlo was a self-taught artist
While it is common for many artists to go to art school to learn techniques and hone in on their own personal artistic style, Frida Kahlo did not go to art school. She was part of the group of exceptional, famous artists who were self-taught (with additional guidance from her photographer father and commercial printmaker Ferdinand Fernandez). Kahlo did, however, teach art, at Mexico City’s National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking, and was a founding member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana.
Frida Kahlo is Known For Her Self Portraits
Every artist has their signature style and ideas or themes they revisit. One of Frida Kahlo’s signatures is her extensive number of self-portraits. Of the 143 paintings Frida painted, 55 were self-portraits. Each painting was a unique look into her life, her suffering, her hopes, and her dreams.
She planned on being a doctor
Frida didn’t initially have her heart set on being an artist. Originally she had planned on becoming a doctor, but a bus accident left her bedridden for three months. While at home, Frida painted, which led to her prolific career as one of the best-known and loved artists of all time.
Kahlo expressed her life and feelings through her art
As we briefly touched on earlier, Frida Kahlo’s work was deeply personal and reflected the tragedy in her life. She bore her heart and soul in her art, and in the process, we were given a window into her existence. She touched on her tumultuous relationship with husband Diego Rivera, her inability to have children, her bus accident and poor health, and overall feelings on life. Kahlo also infused some of her work with political sentiments and messages.
Frida was proud of her Indigenous background
Frida Kahlo’s mother was mestiza, both Indigenous and Spanish. Frida was immensely proud of her American Indian and Mexican identity, and showed it, as part of her image, as well as in her work. She wore traditional Tehuana dress, threaded ribbons through her braids, and depicted herself in this way in her paintings. There is also the strong influence of Mexicanidad in her art and life.
She was part German
Frida Kahlo is so tied into Mexican, Indigenous, and Latinx culture, but did you know that her father was not Latinx at all? Guillermo Kahlo was born Carl Wilhelm Kahlo, in Germany. Frida would tell others that he was Hungarian Jewish, but Guillermo was actually German Lutheran. When Wilhelm moved to Mexico, he changed his name to Guillermo.
Kahlo didn’t agree with being called Surrealist
People have categorized Frida Kahlo’s art as being surrealistic. There are definitely elements that aren’t realistic — Kahlo as a human head on a deer’s body, or growing roots are perfect examples of this. Others say her work falls under Magic Realism. Frida Kahlo herself rejected the notion that her work was Surrealism. She is quoted as saying, “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
Frida Kahlo was the first Mexican artist in the Louvre
An iconic and legendary artist such as Frida Kahlo naturally has a historic first or two under their belt. Kahlo became the first 20th-century Mexican artist to have their art in the Louvre Museum, or any other major, internationally-renowned gallery, for that matter, when it purchased her painting, The Frame, in 1939. Frida Kahlo is also credited as the first woman to sell a painting to the Louvre.
There are five Frida paintings most people know
If you know Frida Kahlo and her art, you will recognize the names of the following five paintings. They are among her most famous pieces of art, that any Frida fan would know:
– Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
– The Wounded Deer (1946)
– The Two Fridas (1939)
– The Broken Column (1944)
– Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931)
Frida is the first Latina artist to sell a $1 million painting
Another large milestone for Frida Kahlo as an artist, and another first for her is the fact that she became the first Latin American artist to have a painting fetch at least $1 million at auction. Her 1949 work, Diego and I, was sold for $1,430,000 by Sotheby’s, New York, in May of 1990.
Frida is also known for her amazing quotes
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Part of being both immensely talented and timeless is that you share life knowledge that resonates, and is carried on for generations. Frida Kahlo shared her reality in her art, but also in her words. Her quotes are shared on social media, emblazoned on products, and repeated so much, you would think she were alive today (and in so many ways, she is). Some of Frida’s legendary sayings include:
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
She Was the First Latina Honored With a U.S. Stamp
Another epic first that Frida Kahlo was a part of was being the first Hispanic woman honored with a United States postage stamp. Released on June 21, 2001, the stamp featured her Self Portrait with Necklace, from 1933. The Servicio Postal Mexicano also issued a Frida stamp, with the same painting, on the same day.