Artist Frida Kahlo born

July 6, 1907

Frida Kahlo, well known for her striking self-portraits, her strong Mexican and feminist sensibilities, and her tumultuous passionate life, was born in Coyoacan, Mexico, on July 6, 1907. Her mother's family was of Spanish and Native Mexican descent, while her father was a German Jewish immigrant. Although she is best known for her representations of Mexican culture, her Jewish background also influenced her work.

Raised in the suburbs of Mexico City, Kahlo entered Mexico's National Preparatory School in 1922, hoping to become a doctor. Her courses in anatomy, biology, and zoology later helped her to add realistic elements to her portraits. A bus accident in 1925 left Kahlo severely injured, ending her medical studies and forcing her to stay in bed for three months. It was during this period that Kahlo began to paint, using a ceiling-mounted mirror that allowed her to be her own model. Physical pain and frequent illness would plague her for the rest of her life, and her many self-portraits are full of images of suffering.

Though she never received any formal training in art, Kahlo continued to paint. After she married muralist Diego Rivera in 1929 (the pair were divorced in 1939 and remarried in 1940), she frequently watched him paint; some of his techniques and images can be seen in Kahlo's works. In contrast to his giant murals, however, Kahlo produced almost exclusively small works, mainly portraits and still lifes. Many of these works reflect Kahlo's interest in Mexican culture and in leftist politics. Several self-portraits depict the artist in traditional indigenous dress, and many show the influence of pre-Columbian art. In addition, she painted portraits of Marx and Stalin, and had a brief affair with Leon Trotsky, for whom she painted a full-length self-portrait. Though painters Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky, and surrealist poet André Breton, were among her admirers, Kahlo's work was overshadowed in the U.S. by her husband's fame.

Kahlo's tumultuous life was cut short when she died of a pulmonary embolism on July 13, 1954. However, her fame has grown enormously in the half-century since her death, and Kahlo is now regarded as one of the most important artists of 20th-century Mexico. Her paintings have been shown in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and at the Tate Modern Museum in London. A major traveling exhibition showcased her work alongside that of Georgia O'Keefe. A 2003 Jewish Museum exhibit in New York focused on Kahlo's relationship to her Jewish roots as it was portrayed in her 1936 painting, "My Grandparents, My Parents, and I." In 2000, a 1929 self-portrait sold for more than $5 million at auction.

In recent years, Kahlo has become something of an iconic cult figure. Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier created a collection inspired by Kahlo, and her 1933 self-portrait was featured on a 2001 U.S. postage stamp. In 2002, the film Frida, based on her biography, was nominated for an Academy Award.

Sources:;;; Phyllis Tuchman, "Frida Kahlo," Smithsonian, November 2002; Malka Drucker, Frida Kahlo (Albuquerque, 1995); Hayden Herrera, Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo (New York, 1982); Raquel Tibol, Frida Kahlo: An Open Life (Albuquerque, 1993).


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Frida Kahlo apparently did not have Jewish roots. It would be appropriate to revise this entry to reflect that.

Interesting article, but with all due respect, except for one painting, it is not clear how, if in any way, the fact that Frida Kahlo's father was a German Jewish immigrant had anything to do with her psyche, her identity, or with her art. I would venture to say that it did not.

Having viewed the Frida Kahlo exhibit today (Brooklyn Museum) I just tried to verify that she did/not have Jewish roots. This is what I was able to find: A 2005 book, by Gaby Franger and Rainer Huhle, traced Kahlo’s genealogy, and stated that despite the legend propagated by Frida, Guillermo did not have Jewish Hungarian roots, but was born to Lutheran parents who came from families accommodated in Frankfurt and Pforzheim. He attended the University of Nuremberg. As your entry states that her father’s mother was Jewish, do you have verification of this? Thank you

Frida Kahlo has been a hero to me, from a disability point of view. I saw a large retrospective of her paintings, painting her pain, in the early 1980s, just as I was becoming ill with a severe disabling illness. I started to cry in the gallery. Luckily, only my future spouse and I were looking at the art.

Lola Alvarez Bravo, reflects society's discomfort with disability, in the opening lines of an interview used in the catalog, "The Frida Kahlo Photographs". Curated by Salomon Grimberg, from interviews he did with Bravo in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Sept. 1989.

It's the opening lines: "I get very inhibited when people have physical handicaps. I think it must bother them to have their photographs taken. So when I photographed Frida after the amputation (SA: leg) I didn't ask her directly. She told me she was going to wear a pretty little boot for the first time and she showed it to me, so I said, 'Oh what a pretty boot; if you want to, we can take its picture,' and she said, 'yes, manita' little sister, 'take its picture.' I don't know why I didn't keep the photo."

Lola Alvarez Bravo is speaking more about herself, than about Frida Kahlo. Kahlo painted herself as she was, the wheelchair and herself in paintings. (There is a good biography of Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.)

Disability disappears from view: it's not evident in the US postage stamp, which makes me sad and angry. It is "disappeared" from the doll that was being sold in recent years in the museum of women's artists of Frida Kahlo. Kahlo was injured in the bus crash in Mexico City at around age 17 and suffered for the rest of her life from the injuries sustained.

I scolded, by mail, a male reviewer who continued distortions of both women and disabled persons, when stating that Kahlo was exploiting her "illness" for attention getting in her paintings, in the paper of record, in NYC, in the late 1990s.

Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art group, has an artist named for Frida Kahlo in its anonymous members, who do actions and art on the subject of women being kept out of the art world in numbers equivalent to our existence.

A portrait of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Rivera, 1932.

Image by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Artist Frida Kahlo born." (Viewed on February 4, 2023) <>.


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