Unlike some other famous artists, everybody seems to know Frida’s troubled life, also because of the books, documentaries and movies about it. Born in July 1907, to a German father and a mestiza mother, she spent most of her childhood and adult life at her family home in Coyoacán, La Casa Azul — The Blue House —, now known and publicly accessible as the Frida Kahlo Museum.
Frida was disabled by polio as a child. This made her right leg and foot grow much thinner and shorter than her left one and caused her to limp when she walked. Throughout her life, she wore long skirts and dresses as well as prosthetics. In 1922 at the age of 18, she was in a tragic accident when a bus she was on collided with a streetcar. A steel handrail impaled her, crushing her foot, and breaking her spinal column and leg. This led to chronic pain, many surgeries throughout her life and, later on, miscarriages. It also resulted in her needing supportive bodices and spine braces. Until the accident she had been a promising student headed for medical school.
During her recovery, she returned to her childhood hobby of painting, helped by her parents who rigged a special easel to her bed, with a mirror above it. In 1927, she joined the Mexican Communist Party, through which she met celebrated muralist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1928. She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953, shortly before her death in 1954 at the age of 47.
“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.”
By the early 1990s, Frida had become not only a recognized figure in art history, but also regarded as an icon for Chicanos, the Feminism movement, and the LGBTQ movement, as well as one of the major sources of inspiration and recipients of tributes from artists, creatives and brands.
In recent years there was a big playing around with creating fake photos of Frida, especially naked. A well-made stuff, but certainly recognizable to a sensitive and keen eye. In fact, it seems that the only shots of Frida without veils belong to a 1938 series by Julian Levy, whereby the body of Frida becomes distinguishable from all the photo montages.
About Mattel’s tribute, Frida’s family released a statement through Instagram claiming that the toy company didn’t have proper authorization to produce a Barbie doll in Kahlo’s likeness. “For over a decade the Frida Kahlo Corporation is dedicated to educating, sharing and preserving Frida Kahlo’s legacy,” told a representative for the Corporation. The rights of Frida were bought from Isolda Pinedo Kahlo — niece of Frida — in 2005.