Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.

DAY IN HISTORY: Mexican painter Frida dead at 47

MEXICAN painter, activist and icon Frida Kahlo de Rivera - known as Frida around the world - died in her bed on July 13, 1954.

Inspired by Mexican culture, Frida, described as a surrealist, explored through her works questions of identity, post-colonialism, gender and class in her native country.

However, it wasn't until after Frida's death that her works, mostly self-portraits, would garner the international recognition they deserved.

Frida is "one of Mexico's most important twentieth-century figures," according to art historian Elizabeth Bakewell while the Tate Modern considers Kahlo "one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century"

Born to a German father and a Mexican mother, Frida contracted polio at a young age which, coincidentally, pushed her closer to her artistic father who suffered from epilepsy.

Though she dabbled in the arts as child, she had dreams of pursuing medicine as an adult. But they were destroyed when she was involved in a fatal accident in 1925.

The collision between her bus and a streetcar left Frida with multiple injuries, including displaced vertebrae, and she was forced to wear a plaster corset for several months. She would live with the pain of her injuries for the rest of her life.

However, Frida's recovery allowed her to again indulge her painting and start what would be her artistic career.

After being freed from her corset and bed, Frida began mixing with political activists which led her to meeting her long-term on-and-off husband, famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera.

The pair travelled and worked across Mexico and the US but had a tumultuous relationship - Frida once declared she was the better painter of the two - which was riddled with extra-marital affairs on both sides.

But it was during this time that Frida's output of work exploded and she gained international recognition when she opened a solo exhibition in New York in 1938.

Trips to France and England followed but she soon tired of Europe and returned to Mexico.

Frida's return spark greater recognition in her home country and the US and she painted some of her most famous works during this period.

However, her health continued to deteriorate and the pain of her ailments cause her to become increasingly dependent on painkillers.

Frida continued to work and be politically active but on during the night of July 12, 1954, she succumbed to what was declared pulmonary embolism. She was 47 years old.

However, it has also been alleged that she committed suicide by taking an overdose of painkillers.

Rivera declared her death as "the most tragic day of my life" and, just three years later, died in Mexico City.


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