“The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration. Since my subjects have always been my sensations, my states of mind and the profound reactions that life has been producing in me, I have frequently objectified all this in figures of myself, which were the most sincere and real thing that I could do in order to express what I felt inside and outside of myself.”
More than half a century has passed from her death, and yet Frida Kahlo’s distinctive and iconic image still feels so fresh today. The flowered hair, her intense gaze under that striking unibrow and all that colourful dresses made her stand out to the world. Yet, she wasn’t just an image, Frida Kahlo was a renowned Mexican painter of the 20th century and a worldwide symbol of feminism and vigour.
She was always attracting attention. Either in the streets of New Work, in Paris, or in happenings in Mexico, people just stood and stared at her. The combination of the long colourful dresses, the traditional jewellery and the braided hair with the flowers and the ribbons, created a unique aesthetic style with no comparison. Her appearance, closely bound up with her artworks, shaped her identity, and all those different colours and shapes reflected her unique personality. Regional Mexican garments, such as the Tehuana dresses, became her signature outfit.
“I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.”
Frida Kahlo’s paintings
Common theme in Frida’s paintings was herself, always painted in vibrant colours. With shocking intimacy, lots of phantasy and humour she depicts her own body broken, bleeding or in pain. She painted her own reality and made art out of her physical and emotional pain. Her works might be overly dramatic but nonetheless authentic and make people stare them with awe. Every little detail is important too, for it may hide her deepest and most secret feelings. Her eyes in her self-portraits draw people in and gaze into their very soul. Pablo Picasso, who admired her deeply, once said: “Neither Derain, nor I, nor you are capable of painting a head like those of Frida Kahlo.”
Her inspiration was her own life. Frida recreated snapshots of her life, where her physical and psychological pain is evident. Her life and her work were shaped not only by her turbulent relationship with Diego Riviera — their marriage, the infidelities, their divorce, their remarriage, — but also by her chronic physical pain, the multiple surgeries, the miscarriages, and the amputation. Her works narrate a personal journey through pain and hardship, masked under a thick layer of colourful oil paint.
“I don’t give a shit what the world thinks. I was born a bitch, I was born a painter, I was born fucked. But I was happy in my way. You did not understand what I am. I am love. I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious. I am; simply I am … You are a shit.”
Frida Kahlo’s personality.
Looking deeper into Frida Kahlo’s life and work, one could say that Frida might have actually suffered from borderline personality disorder (BPD). Overall, people with BPD have a fragmented, chaotic sense of self, meaning they lack stability or self-cohesion. Their emotional relationships are unstable, they experience tremendous fear of abandonment, and they try to avoid being abandoned by any means often using manipulating techniques. This could perhaps explain why Frida felt hopeless and empty throughout her life.
During her whole life, Frida was trying to feel cohesive and complete. She was constantly seeking love, approval and attention from the people around her in order to feel alive. All that derived from her childhood years. Her illness at the age of six and her withered leg made her feel fragile, weak and inferior to other children. Yet, it was her fragility that brought her father closer to her. He always helped her and looked after her. Frida was the third child of her father’s second marriage and thus she feared that he would neglect her. Thus, she tried to make him love her more than his other children and bound him to her. This was a reoccurring theme in her life. Her mother on the other hand, wasn’t as caring as her father, what left an empty space in her heart.
Inevitably, she was trying to get from her husband the love she never got from her mother. Diego was an older man, with whom she felt secure, because he protected her just like her father did. Yet, Diego meant much more to Frida. He was not only her partner but her mentor as well. His influence helped her shape her art and her persona. She had idealized him. They were strongly attached to each other. One needed the other to feel complete as a person. Each time that this special bond broke, it had serious effect on their lives, especially Frida’s. She felt abandoned, lonely and heartbroken. Her life had no meaning. It comes as no surprise that she forgave his many infidelities and remarried him. They shared an emotional attachment that made Frida need Diego in order to live and keep her art alive. Diego felt no different.
Frida’s fragmented self and feelings of abandonment are obvious in all of her paintings. Despite all the people who cared about her, she always felt lonely and unwanted. Her constant need of love and approval was evident in all the letters she wrote to Diego, her friends and lovers. She took rejection hard and often struggled with depression for long periods of time. In spite of all the anxiety and periods of depression, Frida used to say that she loved life, and there were times when everything seemed pretty. In her final years, all the heavy medication she took, due to her serious health condition, made her paranoid from times to times. Frida was afraid of death and thus she took great care of her health. Her serious health problems made her have regular medical check-ups and go under multiple surgeries.
As said before, Frida was an attention-seeker. Her appearance alone –the colourful dresses, the jewellery and the flowers – never went unnoticed. She had managed to create an extraordinary persona that cached everyone’s eye. However, Frida didn’t hesitate to deploy her own pain and suffering to get what she wanted – admiration and attention. And that surely is reflected in her paintings too. By painting herself as a martyr, who has suffered extreme pain, she managed to provoke feelings not only of admiration but also of pity and sympathy. She presented her problems in an overdramatic way, making others see her as a tragic victim, either of Diego’s infidelity or her physical pain’s. She rightfully won the title of “The Grande Dama of Suffering” for she used her illness and suffering in her favor. “We like being ill to protect ourselves,” she wrote in her diary, because she felt that when sick, she was loved and taken care of the most.
Nothing could fill the empty space inside Frida’s soul. The only thing that partially soothed her pain was her relationship with Diego. But every fight made it worse. Over time her desperation grew bigger and led her to alcohol and excessive use of painkillers. During the last year of her life she made numerous suicide attempts. People with BPD often behave like that. Frida loved kids, but she couldn’t have children of her own and that was killing her. Painting was the solution to her every problem. Getting through hardship by making art became an integral part of her life. It gave her strength and a reason to live. Receiving admiration for her works was her only comfort in life.
“The most important part of the body is the brain. Of my face, I like the eyebrows and eyes. Aside from that, I like nothing. My head is too small.”
Frida Kahlo’s childhood
Frida Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, a small city in the suburbs of Mexico. She was born with a mixed heritage. Her father, Guillermo Kahlo, was German of Hungarian-Jewish descent, whilst her mother, Matilde Calderón, was of Spanish and Indian heritage and a devout Catholic. Her full name was Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón, but she dropped the ‘e’ from her German name because of the rise of Nazism in Germany at the time, and became known as Frida, using a more Hispanic name. It’s obvious that Frida wanted to create a myth around her name. Thus, she also claimed to be born on 1910, the same year with the outbreak of the Mexican revolution.
Yet, Frida wasn’t born lucky. All the hardship started at her early childhood. When she was only six years old, Frida was diagnosed with polio. The disease, caused great damage to her right leg, leaving it shorter and weaker than the left. She tried very hard to cope with her disfigurement. She usually hid it under long skirts or crossed one leg over the other while seated, as often seen in photographs. Children used to make fun of her in school, calling her “Pata de Palo”, meaning peg-leg, a nickname which she later adopted herself and jokingly used to sign her letters to her friends. Frida closed herself off from other people and created a world of phantasy in her mind. She invented an imaginary friend who later might have inspired her double portrait The Two Fridas (1939).
“My toys were those of a boy: skates, bicycles.”
However, Frida didn’t give up and tried to overcome her impairment. She got into several sports, such as football, boxing and swimming. She liked climbing on trees and ride her bike along the lakes of Chapultepec Park, activities unusual for little girls in Mexico at the time. She was different in every aspect and people admired her for that. On the other hand, the singularity of her behaviour scared the other children away.
“I am in agreement with everything my father taught me and nothing my mother taught me.”
Her relationship with her family
Even within her family Frida felt alone and isolated. Her loneliness is evident both in the family pictures and her paintings later on. As a tomboy, she was very different from her sisters — even from her sister Cristina, no matter how close in age they were. Her mother, Matilde, wasn’t an affectionate person. She was cold and distant towards her and seemed to love God more.
The lack of affection from her mother might be the root cause of Frida’s emotional hunger throughout her life. She needed the love and attention that was deprived as a child. A mother-child bond is one of the most important bonds in the first years of a child’s life and has a huge emotional impact on the child when its missing.
Unlike with her mother, Frida had a very close relationship with her father. Guillermo loved Frida very much and it was very obvious that she was his favourite child. “Frida is the most intelligent of my daughters, she is the most like me,” he said. He was very attentive towards Frida and devoted himself to her recovery, since she was special for him. Guillermo also wanted to spark Frida’s imagination in a wide variety of ways. He was a photographer, and he liked taking Frida with him at his studio or at the photo shooting locations. He was a good painter too, and that’s how Frida first came in contact with painting. He was Frida’s role model, and he made her childhood happy. She admired him for never giving up on his work, despite his health problem (he long suffered from epileptic seizures), and it seems that she took his example later in her life as well.
“I was a child who went about in a world of colors… My friends, my companions, became women slowly; I became old in instants”.
The teenage years of Frida Kahlo
In 1922, Frida’s father believing in her intelligence and having great hopes for her, decided to enrol Frida to Escuela Nacional Prepatoria, a preparatory school in Mexico City. Her mother was most likely opposed to this idea, thinking it would be very dangerous for a girl to be alone in an unprotected environment. In addition, it was very rare for girls of the time to get a higher education. In fact, there were only 35 girls out of the two hundred students in that school.
Her distinctive clothing and her unusual hairstyle drew her classmate’s attention, however this time positively. Her friends thought she was fascinating. They said she carried “a little world” in her bag, books, notebooks, drawings even dried flowers and butterflies. Frida wasn’t a diligent student. Thanks to her intelligence however she got high scores without much of an effort. She could read a text once and remember it forever. She didn’t like attending boring lectures, instead she preferred to sit outside and read books with her friends. Frida was unconventional for her time; her friends were too, and so they formed a group named Los Cachuchas. It consisted of seven boys and two girls. They liked creating chaos at school with the outrageous pranks they pulled. Once, they brought a donkey in the halls and the classrooms emptied and, on another occasion, they set off firecrackers during a boring lecture that they wanted to get cancelled. Frida Kahlo was gaining somewhat of a name amongst her peers.
“I very much love things, life, people.”
Frida Kahlo’s teenage crush with Diego Rivera
In Prepatoria Frida saw Diego Rivera for the first time, a well-known painter of the time, who was there to paint a mural in one of the school’s amphitheatres. He was then 36 years old and Frida barely 15. Frida was immediately and completely smitten by Diego. She idolized him, and dreamt of them being together. Indeed, her dream came true many years later. Diego was working long hours at the amphitheatre, always accompanied by beautiful models, who posed for him, and who most probably were his lovers too. One of those beautiful women was Diego’s wife, Lupe Marín. She and Frida would become good friends in the future. Frida was always just sitting there and watching Diego paint with awe. She was jealous of his lovers, and she made fun of him now and then trying to embarrass him in front of them, by calling one with the name of the other. One day Frida told her friends: “My ambition is to have a child by Diego Rivera. And I’m going to tell him so someday.” Frida wasn’t blessed to have children with Diego, but they did get married nonetheless.
“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”
Frida Kahlo’s terrible bus accident
Undoubtedly, the nearly fatal accident Frida had when she was 18 years old, shocked everyone who knew her. On September 17, 1925, Frida was riding a bus home from school together with her first boyfriend and fellow Cachucha, Alejandro Gomez Arias, when an old electric trolley car crashed into the bus. Those who were present in the accident were talking about a girl covered in blood and glitter. This girl was Frida, and she would survive to become one of the greatest artists of all time.
In that life-threatening accident, Frida got heavily injured. She was taken to the hospital nearly in pieces. Her spinal column, collarbone, pelvis and ribs were all broken in more than one places. Her shoulder was dislocated. Her right leg was fractured in 11 places, whilst her right foot was crushed as well. An iron handrail was penetrating her body from one side to the other. The pain was excruciating.
Due to the multiple fractures and injuries Frida was bedridden in the hospital for three months. The shock was so big for her parents that none of them visited her at the hospital. Her mother kept to herself for several months, whilst her father fell seriously ill. Her sister Matilde and a few friends were the only ones who went to visit Frida. When she got out of the hospital, the atmosphere in her house was very heavy. She spent many months recovering at home, suffering from severe pain from head to toe. She felt lonely and was overly afraid of death.
“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”
The start of a painting career
From 1925 onwards, Frida’s life became a constant battle against ill-health and corrosion. For many months she was laid up in bed, wearing plaster corsets, that prevented her from moving. Therefore, Frida began to paint. At first painting was something to help pass time, but later on it became an integral part of her life. Through painting Frida managed to reinvent herself and she began a brave attempt to rise like some phoenix from the ashes. She had found a way to express her feelings and the pain she was going through. Her first works were mostly self-portraits that revealed her physical suffering and her feelings of loneliness and helplessness. She bared her soul to the world and used her phantasy to describe her inner struggles not in words but in colours. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
“I love you more than my own skin.”
Frida Kahlo’s relationship with Diego Rivera
By 1928 Frida was able to move and walk again. The same year, Frida was officially introduced to Diego Rivera, who she met again after all these years. Diego was then 41 years old and one of the most famous artists in Mexico. His murals decorated the walls of the country’s most important buildings. One day, Frida went to find Diego at the site where he was working. She found him atop a scaffolding working on another one of his murals. She called him loudly and asked him to get down and give her his honest opinion on the works she’d brought with her. “Look, I have not come to flirt or anything even if you are a woman-chaser. I have come to show you my painting. If you are interested in it, tell me so, if not, likewise, so that I will go to work at something else to help my parents,” she said. Diego got down from the scaffolding and took a look at Frida’s paintings, “Look,” he said, “in the first place, I am very interested in your painting, above all in this portrait of you, which is the most original. The other three seem to me to be influenced by what you have seen. Go home, paint a painting, and next Sunday I will come and see it and tell you what I think. You have talent.”
Just a few days after his first visit at her house, Diego kissed Frida for the first time and the two became inseparable. They had a huge age difference between them. Diego was 20 years older than Frida but this didn’t seem to bother her. Frida’s family eventually accepted their relationship as well. Her father used to warn Diego; “She is a devil,” he often said. But Diego loved Frida’s unconventional thought and sharp mind. He was struck by her fresh spirt and sexuality. It looked like they never got bored of each other. From the way they spoke to each other, it was clear that they also shared the same sense of humour and sarcasm, “You have a dog face,” he was saying teasingly, “And you have the face of a frog!” she was answering him back. It’s a wonder that a young and beautiful girl like Frida fell in love with someone so much older, overweight and physically unattractive, like Diego. Diego’s appearance might not have been his strong point, but he had a strong social status, a great talent and charm that attracted the ladies. He was Frida’s world, her everything; her teenage crush, her mentor, her source of inspiration, her great love. He was a strong man and Frida was feeling safe in his arms. She could lean on him and evolve her talent.
“Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.”
Frida’s marriage with Diego
Frida and Diego got married on August 21, 1929, in a simple ceremony that only Frida’s father and few other friends attended. Frida’s parents said it was like the marriage between an elephant and a dove. During the first few months of their marriage Frida wasn’t painting much. She devoted herself to taking care of her husband. Yet, in 1929 in her self-portrait “Time flies” her serious and rather sad face reveals that there might have been troubles in their marriage already. Frida suffered a miscarriage that left her devastated. She tried not to think about it much, therefore she kept her mind busy by taking care after her house and Diego, by painting, or by accompanying her husband at work. Despite the pain and disappointment of not being able to have a baby, Frida had another problem to deal with – Diego’s affairs with other women. Although her feelings were hurt, she was always trying to laugh Diego’s affairs off. As a couple they had a stormy relationship with many violent fights, yet they loved each other deeply. Frida was going through tremendous mood swings. There were times when she was upset, furious, and felt hatred towards Diego, and others when she felt utterly in love with him and swore to love and take care of him forever.
One thing is for sure, one could not live without the other. “Little Frida” was like a mother to Diego who loved him unconditionally and forgave his mistakes. He too loved her very much and believed in her and her talent. That’s also why he tried to make her independent by helping her develop and evolve her work as an artist. On the other hand, Frida felt emotionally complete only when she was by Diego’s side. Despite the pain he was causing her, he was the only one who could fill her empty soul. She found meaning in life, only when he was in it. Even her art was highly influenced by him. Her existence was meaningless without him. She was his most loyal ally and supporter, and she never asked more than he could give. This was the only way the two could be together. A friend of theirs one said: “She treated him like a god. He treated her like a sweet thing.”
Diego did not only help Frida shape her art, but also helped her create a persona. In fact, Frida only embraced the so- called Mexicanism during her lifetime, just to please Diego. That’s why she started wearing the traditional Tahuana dresses. But all the while, all these colourful dresses, the jewellery, the ribbons and the flowers became an integral part of her image and personality. They served as inspiration for her art and at the same time as a mask to hide her pain and despair.
“I find that Americans completely lack sensibility and good taste. They are boring, and they all have faces like unbaked rolls.”
Frida’s and Diego’s life in America
The political scene in Mexico was tense. Diego, as an artist inspired by the political landscape of the time, was considered to be a controversial figure. The Communists called him “government agent” whilst the government an “agent of the revolution”. Diego decided that it was time to leave the country. Frida of course supported his decision and followed him to San Francisco on November, 10, 1930. On their way there, Frida gave Diego a self-portrait with a strange city in the background as a gift. “Its background was an unfamiliar city skyline. When we arrived in San Francisco, I was almost frightened to realize that her imagined city was the very one we were now seeing for the first time,” Diego said.
Frida knew very well that for Diego art came first. He was working long hours, and he was away from home all day long. At first, the days in San Francisco were very boring to Frida. She used to follow Diego at work, and she rarely painted for herself. After Diego’s art exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Frida’s life became more interesting. She got new friends, such as Dr. Eloesser and Tina Modotti with whom she explored Manhattan and went out to luxurious restaurants and the movies. Although she regularly mocked the American lifestyle, she got used to the new way of living. She was no longer the shy and lonely woman she used to be when they first came to America. Wherever she’d go, she was always the centre of attention, thanks to her Mexican outfit and Diego was always bringing out the best of her extraordinary character when they were together in public. In 1932, in Detroit, Frida and Diego lived a life in luxury, and quickly became a part of the city’s high society, amongst other artists and billionaires of the time. One of them was Henry Ford who gave them a car in exchange for a portrait of his daughter.
“I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.”
Frida Kahlo’s obsession with motherhood
In the summer of 1932, Frida got pregnant again for the second time. She decided to keep the baby despite her ill-health but unfortunately the pregnancy was lost. She spent thirteen days in the hospital, full of pain and grieve. For many days she was crying nonstop out of despair and fear that she would never be able to have a baby. Frida’s feelings are reflected in her painting Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932), where she depicted herself lying in the hospital bed, suffering and bleeding. At first, she started with just a few drawings and a portrait, and later on, she asked her doctor to bring her some medical books so that she could draw in detail the lost fetus. Frida’s artistic outburst that followed this tragic event of her life is best described by Diego’s own words: “Immediately thereafter, she began work on a series of masterpieces with had no precedent in the history of art—paintings which exalted the feminine qualities of endurance to truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering. Never before had a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas as Frida did at this time in Detroit.”
As seen in her paintings My Birth (1932), My Nurse and I (1937), Me and My Doll (1937), the agony of not being able to have a baby followed her through her life. According to Diego they had three more failed attempts to have children. There could be many reasons why Frida so desperately desired to have kids. Perhaps all that she wanted was to give Diego a child or just strengthen their relationship. Another guess, is that she sought some form of fulfilment in motherhood. Her obsession with motherhood was evident not only in her paintings but also in Caza Azul, her home in Mexico. There, Frida kept fertility books, a human fetus preserved in a jar of formaldehyde — a gift from Dr. Eloesser — and a huge collection of dolls. Frida clearly had lots of love to give. She was very affectionate with her sister’s children, and also had many pets; cats, dogs, pigeons, parrots, an eagle, a few monkeys and a deer.
“Pain, pleasure, and death are no more than a process for existence.”
The death of Frida Kahlo’s mother
Just a few months after her miscarriage in 1932, her mother died in Mexico. This was a very difficult period in Frida’s life. In just a short period of time, Frida not only lost an unborn child but also her mother. The two of them never had an affectionate relationship in the past but despite their fights they came pretty close later on when both grew older. Frida used to call her “mi Jefe” (my chief). At the news of her loss, Frida fell apart. She would miss her mother dearly for the rest of her life.
“Painting completed my life.”
The meaning of painting in Frida Kahlo’s life
Kahlo channelled her grief into art. Despite the fact that she started painting more and only got better by time, painting wasn’t her favourite activity at the time. Instead, she preferred getting dressed in her traditional dresses and go out to visit friends, to shop or go to the movies. She wasn’t devoted enough. She considered painting as part of her persona, and nothing was more important to her than just being who she was –the remarkable Frida Kahlo. Diego believed in her talent, but his efforts to make her take art seriously went in vain. However, her negative attitude towards her work would change over time.
“I am that clumsy human, always loving, loving, loving. And loving. And never leaving.”
A greatly troubled marriage
Frida’s and Diego’s marriage suffered under great strain and continued to deteriorate. Diego was working around the clock. Frida, most of the time was staying home alone, feeling sad and lonely. She was crying a lot, what seemed to make Diego angry.
In 1933, Diego got a job to paint a mural at the newly built Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. He liked his life in America. He was enjoying the fame he got from this country and didn’t want to go back to his old life. But Frida was homesick and desperate to return to Mexico. This of course brought forth many arguments between them. Frida depicts her lonely life in America and her need to go back home in her painting My Dress Hangs There (1933). The fights were very intense sometimes and Frida’s eyes were always red from crying. After a while Diego got fired from the project because he incorporated politically controversial messages into his work that insulted the Rockefeller family, and they took action to shut it down. His mural was immediately coved up. That incident seemed to have greatly upset Diego and caused further troubles in their marriage. Soon after, they decided to return to Mexico but Diego never felt right about this decision and blamed Frida for persisting. His behaviour gave Frida a hard time and made her feel guilty and miserable.
“I suffered from two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down. The other accident is Diego.”
The life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico
When Frida and Diego returned to Mexico in 1933, they moved into their new house at the corner of Palmas and Altavista in San Angel, a house especially designed to suit their unique and unconventional lifestyle. In fact, it consisted of two separate buildings joined by an elevated bridge. Frida’s was painted pink, Diego’s blue. Both were surrounded by a natural cactus fence inspired by the Mexican tradition that caught everyone’s eye. The colourful walls, the paintings, the huge garden with the rare plants which Frida was gardening herself, as well as the bizarre pets, such as monkeys and parrots made the house look as if it came from another planet. Their house acted as a creative nest for some of the most famous and talented artists of the time. Painters, writers, photographers, musicians, actors, even politicians, and other renown and wealthy people visited the famous couple’s home, and they all had a story to tell.
Despite how colourful their house might have been, their life had its dark side. Frida’s dream for a fresh start in their marriage crashed the moment they arrived in Mexico. Diego was dealing with great psychological pressure due to his failed mural at the Rockefeller Center and his reluctant return to Mexico. He couldn’t find meaning in his art anymore and painted less. He had lost many pounds and suffered from psychosomatic disorders. Perhaps he was going through a middle age crisis. All these affected Frida as well, who was yet again felling lonely and helpless. Her health was going from bad to worse. During 1934 she was admitted three times to the hospital, once to get an abortion and the rest due the worsening pain in her leg.
“I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.”
Diego’s affair with Frida’s sister
The situation only got worse when Frida discovered Diego’s affair with her younger sister Cristina. The attraction between those two began much sooner in 1929, when Christina posed naked in the role of Eve for one of Diego’s murals. Christina had perhaps always been jealous and competitive of Frida, nevertheless she was undoubtably another victim of Diego’s charm. Frida was dealing with a double betrayal, not only from her husband, but from her sister as well. It hurt her feelings irreparably. She was overwhelmed with anger, disappointment, resentment. Her world fell apart. Now she was truly alone. She vented her anger by cutting her hair short, and she stopped wearing the Tehuana dresses that Diego liked.
Frida could take it no more. She left Diego and moved in a modern apartment in the center of Mexico City. She tried to fool everyone into thinking that she was happy. But those who truly knew her, could see the pain in her eyes. Her painting A Few Small Nips (1935) portrays her hurt soul, the despair and melancholy she was feeling. She lies naked, bleeding and suffering, whilst Diego stands beside the bed staring at her with a knife in his hand.
“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”
Despite being separated, they met regularly. They couldn’t stay away from each other for long. Diego knew that he could never be faithful to a woman, but he truly regretted hurting her. If he had to choose between Frida and Christina, he would choose Frida without any hesitation.
By the end of 1935, Frida using her humour as a weapon, got over it pretty quickly and forgave Diego for what he did. Sure, a mistake can be forgiven, but not forgotten as seen in her paintings Memory (1937) and Remembrance of an Open Wound (1938). Frida however appears different this time. The wound is still there, but she stands free and powerful, ready to go her own way. It is a fact that this event made Frida stronger. Instead of being a just beautiful presence by Diego’s side, she decided to get independent. Of course, she never stopped shining bright next to him, but soon she realized that what got the other’s attention was her own light and energy.
“Of the opposite sex, I have the moustache and, in general, the face.”
Frida’s alcohol problem and bisexual affairs
Apparently, the next few years were happy ones, as Frida moved back in with Diego. To spent her time, she used to take long walks, visit her sisters, even go on some brief excursions in the countryside. However, during those years Frida started drinking heavily. Sometimes she carried a little flask of cognac in her purse or hid it in her coat. Now and then, she’d put liquor in a perfume’s bottle and while pretending to wear her perfume, she’d take a quick sip or two under her blouse without anyone noticing. It was widely known that “Frida could drink any man under the table.” Her alcohol problem is evident through Dr. Eloesser’s letters. He advised her to cut down alcohol and she answered that she had stopped drinking “cocktailitos” and only drunk a bear daily. But her addiction in alcohol and drugs would only become worse.
Moreover, it wasn’t just Diego who was unfaithful. Frida herself had quite a few affairs, with not just men but with women as well. The free-spirited and unconventional lifestyle at the time, helped her embrace her homosexual side. The love affairs between women were then a common thing and considered as innocent pleasures. Neither Frida, nor Diego who encouraged her and seemed to enjoy his wife’s homosexual affairs, were ashamed of her homosexuality and it didn’t by any means make her less appealing in his eyes. In What I saw in the Water (1938) and Two Nudes in a Forest (1939), Frida presents her ambivalent sexuality to the world. Some say that Diego encouraged Frida’s homosexual affairs because he couldn’t or wouldn’t please her sexually himself whilst others because he wanted to be free to have his own. What’s for sure is that he didn’t have the same reaction to Frida’s heterosexual affairs. Then, he became jealous and possessive. Frida kept those affairs in secret and warned her lovers that Diego was even capable of murder. Her strong sexuality is expressed through her paintings Flower of Life (1943) and Sun and Life (1947), where the sexual energy is almost palpable.
“I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.”
Frida Kahlo’s affair with Leon Trotsky
On November 21, 1936, after nine whole years in exile, the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia arrived in the harbour of Torreón in Mexico. At the behest of Diego, the Mexican government granted Trotsky political asylum under the condition that he wouldn’t interfere in the country’s internal affairs. Frida was among those who welcomed them, while Diego awaited them home. Frida and Diego would share their home with Trotsky and his wife for the next two years. Diego took care of the house’s safety, while Frida was their advisor and accompanied the couple almost everywhere, since none of them spoke a word of Spanish.
Trotsky was very friendly towards Diego and Frida, despite his cold and distant character. The four of them spent a lot of time together; they often had lunch together, made picknicks and went on small trips near the Mexico City. It was only a matter of time before Trotsky fell for Frida. At first, he wrote her love letters, which he slipped into books that didn’t hesitate to give her even in front of their partners. In just a few weeks the flirt turned into a love affair and the couple met in secret in Christina’s home.
But eventually Frida grew tired of him and ended the affair in just a few months. Trotsky through another letter explained Frida how important she was to him and begged her not to break up with him, but Frida had made up her mind. “I’m very tired of the old man,” she wrote in a letter to her friend Ella Wolfe. Frida was flattered by his attention and impressed by his status in the political world, but she wasn’t in love with him. A few months later, on November 7, 1937 — a significant date because it was not only Trotsky’s birthday but also the anniversary of the October Revolution — Frida painted a self-portrait as a birthday gift for Trotsky. She turned him down but gave herself back to him in the form of a portrait to tease him. In the dedication she wrote: “For Leon Trotsky with all love I dedicate this painting on the 7th of November 1937. Frida Kahlo in San Angel, Mexico.”
“I am my own muse, the subject I know best.”
Frida Kahlo’s career
Since her relationship with Trotsky ended, and he and his wife moved out, Frida’s relationship with Diego came back to normal. They lived together but put a great emphasis on personal autonomy and freedom. In the meantime, Frida started taking her art more seriously. She improved her technique by working every day with great concentration. The years 1937-1938 were her most productive years so far.
List of Frida Kahlo’s paintings created in 1937
- Fulang-Chang and I (1937)
- Self-Portrait dedicated to Trotsky (1937)
- Memory (1937)
- My Nurse and I (1937)
- The Deceased Dimas (1937)
- I Belong to My Owner (1937)
List of Frida Kahlo’s paintings created in 1938
- Remembrance of an Open Wound (1938)
- Esquincle Dog with Me (1938)
- Four Inhabitants of Mexico (1938)
- They Asked for Planes and Only Got Straw Wings (1938)
- Girl with a Death Mask (1938)
- Me and My Doll (1938)
- What the Water Gave Me (1938)
- Tunas (Still Life) (1938)
- Pitahayas (Still Life) (1938)
- Fruits of the Earth (Still Life) (1938)
Frida spent many hours working alone in her studio even though she could easily get distracted. Frida deserved all the admiration and encouragement she received, however she never believed in herself and in the value of her work. She was very modest and hesitated to let others see her work. She neither tried to exhibit her work, nor sell them or get good reviews. She wanted to be remembered for who she was as a person, rather than as an artist. In the summer of 1938, she made her own money by selling four of her paintings for 200 dollars each to the American actor Edward G. Robinson. This came as a surprise to Frida and immediately realized what this meant for her, “This way I am going to be able to be free, I’ll be able to travel and do what I want without asking Diego for money,” she said.
“I don’t know how to write love letters.”
Frida Kahlo’s life in New York
In December of that same year Frida travelled to New York City alone for her first solo art exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. The exhibition was crowned with complete success, despite the bad economy. Twenty-five of her paintings were exhibited and half of them were sold. The exhibition received great reviews. There, she met the famous French surrealist poet and critic André Breton, who got so fascinated by Frida’s paintings that characterized her art as “a ribbon around a bomb”. Frida wanted to use her maiden name and not Diego’s, so that people won’t presume that she wanted to get advantage of her husband’s name, but, in the end, she had to use Diego’s name in a parenthesis beside hers as well. Diego was incredibly supportive in all this, and he cleared the way for her success by sending many letters of recommendation to prominent figures of the artistic world of the time.
Frida loved being in the center of attention and completely independent for the first time. She was free, away from Diego, determined to live her life in Manhattan to the fullest. She had many friends there and always had a great time wherever she’d go. Everyone got captivated by her bright personality whereas her unique appearance and outfits drew great attention as always. She liked life in New York and was fascinated by the varied street life of Chinatown, Little Italy, Broadway and Harlem. Only her poor health was holding her back. Due to the pain in her right leg she couldn’t walk long distances, while the pain in her spine worsened.
While in New York, Frida continued her secret love affair with the photographer Nickolas Muray. Frida’s love letters reveal that it must have been a passionate relationship. However, no one and nothing could compare to the powerful connection she had with Diego. He was always in her thoughts. In the meantime, André Breton was organizing a second exhibition for her in Paris. She had second thoughts about going, but Diego who knew her best and wanted the best for her, convinced her to go.
“They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”
Frida Kahlo’s life in Paris
So, after New York, Frida’s next stop was Paris. The exhibition of her works opened on 10 March 1939 in the Pierre Colle Gallery. Once again, the critics embraced the originality of her art with fantastic reviews. One of her paintings, the colourful self-portrait The Frame, was purchased by The Louvre. Her art inspired the Surrealists’ fascination and was warmly received by many artists, such as Kandinsky and Picasso, who gave her a unique pair of golden hand-shaped earrings as a gift.
Despite her success, Frida despised Paris. She couldn’t find absolutely no glory in the so-called city of light. She found the bohemian lifestyle of the artistic and intellectual Parisian elite pretentious and superficial. The atmosphere in Breton’s home was suffocating. In addition, she had to be hospitalised once due to a kidney infection. The pain was once again unbearable. Nevertheless, she got a glimpse of Paris’ surrealistic world, explored all the artist’s haunts with her newly made friends and played games such as jeux de la vérité (Truth or Consequences). The haute couture welcomed her with open arms and many French designers got inspired from her Mexican style. In addition, the French Vogue magazine featured a photograph of Frida Kahlo on its cover. Frida’s carefully constructed iconic image never failed to amaze and astonish.
“Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.”
Frida Kahlo and Surrealism
Frida was ignoring the fact that she was a Surrealist up until the moment that André Breton labelled her as such. However, she never intended to be part of the movement. Her work might look surrealistic at first sight, but there’s a big difference among her and the other artists of the movement. Her art is not just an outburst of pure imagination, she did not just paint dreams, but rather her own reality, her own life, her own pain. All of her works derive from her own experiences and the way she perceived them. However, her art is often classified as surrealistic, due to the intimacy in her paintings, the vibrant colours and the randomness (especially in What the Water Gave me). From 1944 up until her death, Frida kept a personal diary, what is perhaps her most surreal work. There, she drew shapes and motives without any particular meaning, as if they were made under the influence of drugs. Undeniably this label gained her critical acclaim in her work, especially at a time when women artists were underestimated. Frida took advantage of her new label and took part in the International Exhibition of Surrealism, which was held in Mexico. She exhibited two of her paintings The Two Fridas (1939) and The Wounded Table (1940).
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s divorce
When Frida returned to Mexico, in the summer of 1939, Diego requested a divorce from her. Frida moved back to La Casa Azul in Coyoacán, leaving Diego in San Angel. By the end of the year their divorce was official. The reasons still remain unknown. Frida was away for a long time and her absence might have strongly affected Diego. Some say that Diego learned about her affairs with Muray or Trotsky, others say that the problem was sexual, or that Frida could no longer put up with Diego’s infidelity. According to the couple they just went through a difficult phase in their relationship, but nothing would change what they felt or thought for each other. Indeed, just like it happened before, and despite the divorce, the couple continued to be seen together in public.
Yet, the same year Frida fell in depression and her health deteriorated once again. The severe pain in her spine and a fungus infection on her right hand, often prevented her from working. The doctors were persisting on another surgery. Her mental health went from bad to worse as well. She didn’t want to meet up with Diego or her friends, and she barely even left the house. She was feeling so desperate that she was drinking a whole bottle of brandy by herself each day. Moreover, she cut her hair short once again.
“I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind.”
However, depression helped Frida create some of her best paintings at that time. Unlike in the past, she now made more efforts to sell her works. She wanted to be completely independent of Diego and not take his money. Once again, her works depict the abandonment, loneliness and despair she was feeling during her divorce with Diego, and her fear of death. These are the following:
- The Two Fridas (1939)
- The Wounded Table (1940)
- The Dream (The Bed) (1940)
- Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
In the meantime, she learned the news of Trotsky’s assassination. She got terribly distraught about it. Her health got even worse. Not only that, but she was also picked up by the Mexican police, as she knew the murderer, and was interrogated for two days. Being already emotional unstable, Frida had a mental breakdown. She cried for days. Diego, who was in San Francisco at the time, got really worried and asked Dr. Eloesser to convince her to go there too. It was a good diversion and her mood lifted right away. She said that seeing Diego made her feel better in no time.
“Diego is not anybody’s husband and never will be, but he is a great comrade“
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s second marriage
Shortly after their reconciliation, Diego proposed to Frida wanting to remarry her. He claimed that she needed him. Truth be told, he needed her as much as she needed him. Frida eventually agreed to remarry Diego but only under two conditions. The first one was to be financial independent. She wanted to make her own money by selling her paintings. The second one was that they would have no sexual relations whatsoever at least not until he proved his loyalty to her.
And so, on December 8, 1940, Frida and Diego got married for the second time. It was a joyful moment for them both. After going through a difficult time of upheaval and depression, Frida realized that she needed Diego to feel complete and secure. Even if they had no sexual relations as promised, he was her anchor in this lonely world. By his side she felt strong and confident. Moreover, Frida had set her own terms this time and was feeling better than ever. They had a loving and affectionate relationship once again.
“I tease and laugh at death, so it won’t get the better of me.”
The death of Frida Kahlo’s father
Frida’s happiness though didn’t last for long. On April 14, 1941, her beloved father, Guillermo Kahlo died in Casa Azul. Frida was utterly and absolutely devastated. She was closer to him than anybody, as he was the first one who believed in her and supported her first steps in the world of art. Her sadness was so deep that her health deteriorated once again and would decline even more over the coming years. Some years after his death, Frida painted her father’s portrait and wrote a dedication that showed how much she loved him and admired him: “I painted my father, Wilhelm Kahlo of Hungarian-German origin, artist-photographer by profession, in character generous, intelligent and fine, valiant because he suffered for sixty years with epilepsy, but he never stopped working and he fought against Hitler, with adoration. His daughter Frida Kahlo.”
“Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.”
Frida Kahlo’s career in Mexico
During the 40s, Frida’s career took off. Her work was gaining recognition in Mexico and was included in the country’s greatest exhibitions. Not only that, but she also got many awards, distinctions and grants and took part in cultural events and big projects. She began to paint large-scale portraits such as The Broken Column (1944) and Tree of Hope, Keep Firm (1946). Still, despite her increasing popularity, it was difficult to make a living on her own.
In September 1940, Frida began teaching art at the Ministry of Public Education School of Painting and Sculpture in Mexico City, better known as La Esmeralda. Her students adored her. She was a living legend for them. She didn’t have to teach them specific painting techniques. All she had to do was inspire and motivate them. But a few months later her health prevented her from teaching at La Esmeralda. However, she continued giving lessons at four of her favourite students, Los Fridos, who regularly visited her in Casa Azul. After all, what place could inspire them more than Frida’s own house? Another great moment for Frida was the opening of the pulqueria “La Rosita”. With Frida’s help and under Diego’s supervision her students had the chance to paint a decorative mural on one of the walls. That night, the event was attended by many people and caught the attention of the Mexican high society.
“I am happy to be alive, as long as I can paint.”
Frida Kahlo’s final years
Frida’s final years were full of struggle and pain. Her health went from bad to worse and the pain in her spine forced her to go under many surgeries. She had to wear medical corsets, and she was unable to sit or lay down in them. She couldn’t handle pain well, nor did she like being bedridden for months. Yet, she had no other choice. She considered those corsets to be some kind of punishment. Her only joy was painting, for she could yet again express her pain through art. The Wounded Deer (1946) is a painting of that time that reflects her declining health. In 1950, she was hospitalized once again. For the many months that followed in the hospital painting was the only thing Frida had in mind. She painted for almost five hours each day. “When I leave the hospital two months from now”, she said, “there are three things I want to do: paint, paint, paint.” Despite everything, Frida kept her hope alive and a positive attitude to the whole situation. Her friends were always around to cheer her up, and Diego never left her side.
Though when she went back home to Casa Azul, she lost her every hope of getting better. Her days were monotonous; because of the pain she mostly staid inside. She could only walk small distances whilst even her wheelchair was uncomfortable. Painkillers were her only salvation. She was feeling desperate and depressed and often had suicidal thoughts. Diego, as usual, was away from home for many hours but Frida didn’t care much anymore. Even though she tried to hide her sorrow in front of others, it was getting more difficult day-by-day. Because of her illness she came closer to her sister Christina, who stayed by her side till the end of her life. They had both long forgotten what divided them in the past. The maids and her nurse loved her dearly and took special care of her as if she was a little child. During that period of time, Frida was painting like no tomorrow. Maybe that’s why her last paintings seem so chaotic. Perhaps she could sense the ending was near.
“To paint is the most terrific thing that there is, but to do it well is very difficult.”
In the meantime, recognition and appreciation for her work continued to grow. In the spring of 1953, Frida had a solo exhibition in Mexico in the Galería Arte Contemporaneo. It was her first solo exhibition in her birthplace and a very special moment of her life. Knowing about her poor health no one expected her to show up. Yet Frida surprised them all on the opening day when she arrived by ambulance, had her bed moved to the centre of gallery and was carried in on a stretcher to the bed. It was an unforgettable night dedicated to Frida. She was the centre of attention and was receiving everyone’s congratulations. It seemed as a final goodbye from all those who admired her.
“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”
The last year of Frida Kahlo’s life
The last year of Frida’s life was a living nightmare. In August 1953, her right leg had to be amputated below the knee due to gangrene. It felt like a small death to Frida. By losing her leg, she also lost the will to live. She lost her sense of ‘’self’’ and her self-respect. She almost hated herself. She also hated seeing the pity in other people’s eyes, so she didn’t allow visitors. Soon she got a prosthetic leg and her mood lifted for a while. Once again, she tried to deal with it with humour and bought a pair of red leather boots to hide it, but it didn’t really help her feel much better.
Her disability affected her behavior as well. Up until her final moments she loved brushing her hair and wear lipstick, but she couldn’t do much other than that without the help of others. As a result, she always had a bad temper, she was bossy and quarrelsome. When she wasn’t sleeping or under painkillers her behaviour was unpredictable, often hysteric and violent. She got addicted to painkillers and all kinds of opioid medications. She couldn’t do without them. Often, she had to take painkilling injections. When she got desperate, she took excessively high doses or mixed the drugs. Moreover, she was an alcohol addict. She was drinking two litters of cognac per day.
“I paint flowers so they will not die.”
Frida tried many times to kill herself. At first Diego was always by her side but later on he drifted apart as he could no longer see her suffering like that. “If I was brave, I would kill her. I cannot stand to see her suffer so,” he said. His behaviour made Frida feel even more desperate and alone. In some poems she wrote that he was the only reason she was still alive. For almost a year she didn’t paint anything at all. However, in the spring of 1954, she found the strength to get out of her bed and go to her studio. She knew that she didn’t have much time to live and perhaps she wanted to leave some more works behind. Still Life, Frida and Stalin and Marxism will give health to the sick were her last works. All three have a political meaning.
On July 2, 1954, Frida contracted bronchial pneumonia. Against her doctors’ advice she got out of her bed and took part in a Communist demonstration. This was her last public appearance. It was undoubtedly very brave of her. Diego was by her side, pushing her wheelchair in the streets of Mexico and many famous artists were following them.
“I hope the exit is joyful–and I hope never to come back. Frida”
Frida Kahlo’s death
On July 13, 1954, at 6 a.m., while it was still dark outside, Frida’s nurse thought that Frida called her and went to her room to see if she needed anything. She thought that Frida was sleeping and as always, she went to pull up her covers, but then she realized that Frida wasn’t breathing any more. Her hands were cold. Frida had passed away.
The news shocked Diego. He couldn’t accept that his “little Frida” – as he called her – wasn’t part of this world anymore. Like he said, his love for Frida was the most beautiful thing that happened in his entire life. The cause of death was officially reported as pulmonary embolism. Yet, it is very likely, but never confirmed, that Frida couldn’t live like that anymore and committed suicide. Some days prior to her death she drew a black angel in her diary up in the sky – it was undoubtedly the angel of death.
When her death was officially confirmed, they dressed her in her favourite Tehuana dress, braided her hair and adorned her with her favourite jewels. Her friends came throughout the day to say their last goodbye. Her funeral was held in the Palace of Fine Arts, and hundreds of people paid their last respects to their beloved artist. In accordance with her wishes Frida was later cremated.
Frida died at the age of 47 having much more to give to the world. However, she left behind a remarkable legacy of works and a legendary persona. Her house, La Casa Azul, in Coyoacán opened as a museum in 1958, for those who want to get to know her a little better. Among her belongings the visitors have the chance to admire Frida’s last painting, a still life of cut watermelons as a tribute to life, painted eight days before her death. She added the inscription “Viva la Vida” (Long Live Life) by which the painting would become best known. Despite all the difficulties she went through, Frida was a fighter. She loved and lived life to the fullest till the end.
FRIDA KAHLO’S PERSONAL ITEMS ARE EXPOSED TO LA CASA AZUL (MUSEUM)
You may see several interesting videos for Frida Kahlo below:
- Video for Frida Kahlo No1.
- Video for Frida Kahlo No2.
- Video for Frida Kahlo No3.
Quotes of Frida Kahlo
Get inspired from Frida Kahlo’s most important quotes:
- I love you more than my own skin.
- Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
- I paint flowers so they will not die.
- I am happy to be alive, as long as I can paint.
- I am my own muse, the subject I know best.
- My painting carries with it the message of pain.
- I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.
- I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.
- They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
- Painting completed my life.
- The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.
- I don’t know how to write love letters.
- I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.
- I find that Americans completely lack sensibility and good taste. They are boring, and they all have faces like unbaked rolls.
- I am in agreement with everything my father taught me and nothing my mother taught me.
- I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind.
- My toys were those of a boy: skates, bicycles.
- I was a child who went about in a world of colors… My friends, my companions, became women slowly; I became old in instants.
- The most important part of the body is the brain. Of my face, I like the eyebrows and eyes. Aside from that, I like nothing. My head is too small.
- Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.
- Of the opposite sex, I have the moustache and, in general, the face.
- Since my subjects have always been my sensations, my states of mind and the profound reactions that life has been producing in me, I have frequently objectified all this in figures of myself, which were the most sincere and real thing that I could do in order to express what I felt inside and outside of myself.
- I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presenceall the day and nights that I am away from you.
- They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
- I tried to drown my sorrows, but the bastards learned how to swim, and now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good feeling.
- To paint is the most terrific thing that there is, but to do it well is very difficult.
- I very much love things, life, people.
- I suffered from two grave accidents in my life. One in which a streetcar knocked me down…. The other accident is Diego.
- I tease and laugh at death, so it won’t get the better of me.
- At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.
- Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.
- Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.
- I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of “madness”. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint; pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: “Poor thing, she’s crazy!” (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from “reality”.
- I am that clumsy human, always loving, loving, loving. And loving. And never leaving.
- I don’t give a shit what the world thinks. I was born a bitch, I was born a painter, I was born fucked. But I was happy in my way. You did not understand what I am. I am love. I am pleasure, I am essence, I am an idiot, I am an alcoholic, I am tenacious. I am; simply I am … You are a shit.
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This was an analysis of Frida Kahlo’s personality and life. If you want to find out which personality you belong to or what kind of Motto suits you, click on the link below:
99 artworks by Frida Kahlo
- Tray with Poppies (1924)
- Still Life (Roses) (1925)
- Urban Landscape (1925)
- Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress (1926)
- La Adelita, Pancho Villa, and Frida (1927)
- If Adelita… or The Peaked Caps (1927)
- Portrait of Miquel N. Lira (1927)
- Portrait of Adriana (1927)
- Portrait of Agustin Olmedo (1927)
- Portrait of Alicia Galant (1927)
- Portrait of Ruth Quintanilla (1927)
- Portrait of Jesús Ríos y Valles (1927)
- Portrait of Alejandro Gómez Arias (1928)
- Portrait of Cristina, My Sister (1928)
- Sitting Girl with Duck (1928)
- Two Women (1928)
- Indian Woman Nude (1929)
- Portrait of a Girl (1929)
- Portrait of a Girl with Ribbon Around her Waist (1929)
- Portrait of Isolda Pinedo Kahlo (1929)
- Portrait of Lupe Marín (1929)
- Portrait of Virginia (Little Girl) (1929)
- Self-Portrait – Time Flies (1929)
- The Bus (1929)
- Portrait of a Woman in White (1930)
- Self-Portrait (1930)
- Display Window in a Street in Detroit (1931)
- Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931)
- Portrait of Dr. Leo Eloesser (1931)
- Portrait of Eva Frederick (1931)
- Portrait of Mrs. Jean Wight (1931)
- Portrait of Luther Burbank (1932)
- Frieda and the Cesarean Operation (1932)
- Henry Ford Hospital (1932)
- My Birth (1932)
- Self-Portrait on the Border of Mexico and the United States (1932)
- My Dress Hangs There (1933)
- Self-Portrait – Very Ugly (1933)
- Self-Portrait with Necklace (1933)
- A Few Small Nips (1935)
- Self-Portrait with Curly Hair (1935)
- My Grandparents, My Parents and I (1936)
- Cactus Fruits (1937)
- Fulang-Chang and I (1937)
- I Belong to My Owner (1937)
- Me and My Doll (1937)
- Memory, The Heart (1937)
- My Nurse and I (1937)
- Portrait of Alberto Misrachi (1937)
- Portrait of Diego Rivera (1937)
- Self-Portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky (1937)
- The Deceased Dimas (1937)
- Four Inhabitants of Mexico City (1938)
- Fruits of the Earth (1938)
- Girl with Death Mask (She Plays Alone) (1938)
- Girl with Death Mask (1938)
- Itzcuintli Dog with Me (1938)
- Pitahayas (1938)
- Remembrance of the Open Wound (1938)
- Self-Portrait (1938)
- Self-Portrait (Oval Miniature) (1938)
- Self-Portrait – The Frame (1938)
- Self-Portrait with Monkey (1938)
- Survivor (1938)
- The Airplane Crash (1938)
- The Suicide of Dorothy Hale (1938)
- They Asked for Airplanes but Were Given Straw Wings (1938)
- What the Water Gave Me (1938)
- When I Have You, Life, How Much I Love You (1938)
- Xochil, Flower of Life (1938)
- The Two Fridas (1939)
- Two Nudes in the Forest (1939)
- Retablo (1940)
- Self-Portrait Dedicated to Sigmund Firestone (1940)
- Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)
- Self-Portrait with Monkey (1940)
- Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940)
- Self-Portrait dedicated to Dr Eloesser (1940)
- The Dream (The Bed) (1940)
- The Wounded Table (1940)
- Flower Basket (1941)
- Me and My Parrots (1941)
- Self-Portrait in Red and Gold Dress (1941)
- Self-Portrait with Bonito (1941)
- Self-Portrait with Braid (1941)
- Portrait of Lucha Maria, a Girl from Tehuacan (1942)
- Portrait of Marucha Lavin (1942)
- Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot (1942)
- Still Life (Round) (1942)
- Diego in My Thoughts (1942)
- Flower of Life (1943)
- How Beautiful Life is When It Gives Us Its Riches (1943)
- Portrait of Natasha Gelman (1943)
- Roots (1943)
- Self-Portrait with Monkey (1943)
- The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Open (1943)
- Thinking about Death (1943)
- Diego and Frida 1929-1944 (1944)
- Portrait of Doña Rosita Morillo (1944)
- Portrait of Lupita Morillo Safa (1944)
- Portrait of Mariana Morillo Safa (1944)
- Portrait of Alicia and Eduardo Safa (1944)
- Portrait of the Engineer Eduardo Morillo Safa (1944)
- Portrait of Marte R. Gómez (1944)
- The Broken Column (1944)
- Magnolias (1945)
- Moses (1945)
- Self-Portrait with Monkey (1945)
- Self-Portrait with small Monkey (1945)
- The Chick (1945)
- The Mask (1945)
- Without Hope (1945)
- Landscape (1946)
- The Wounded Deer (1946)
- Tree of Hope, Remain Strong (1946)
- Self-Portrait with Loose Hair (1947)
- Sun and Life (1947)
- Self-Portrait (1948)
- Diego and I (1949)
- The Love Embrace of The Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Myself, Diego, and Senor Xolotl (1949)
- Portrait of Frida’s Family (1950)
- Coconuts (1951)
- Portrait of My Father (1951)
- Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Doctor Farill (1951)
- Still Life Dedicated to Samuel Fastlicht (1951)
- Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951)
- Still Life with Parrot and Fruit (1951)
- The Circle (1951)
- Weeping Coconuts (1951)
- Congress of People for Peace (1952)
- Living Nature (1952)
- Still Life Dedicated to Samuel Fastlicht (1952)
- Fruit of Life (1953)
- Still Life with Watermelons (1953)
- Marxism Will Give Health to the Sick (1954)
- Self-Portrait with the Portrait of Diego on the Breast and Maria between the Eyebrows (1954)
- Self-Portrait with Stalin (1954)
- Still Life with Flag (1954)
- Viva La Vida and the Dr Juan Farill (1954)
- Brick Kilns (1954)
- Self-Portrait in a Landscape with the Sun Going Down (1954)
- Viva La Vida, Watermelons (1954)