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Frida Kahlo: 1907—1954: Artist

Suffered A Miscarriage

Kahlo would later refer to the marriage as the second accident in her life, but her own talent grew during its early years. Accompanying her husband to Michigan as he worked on a giant set of murals depicting industry and its effects at the Detroit Institute of Arts, she painted such masterworks as Henry Ford Hospital. That painting, rooted in a miscarriage Kahlo suffered at the time, showed a woman in a hospital bed, crying an oversized tear; her fingers are connected by tendonlike ribbons to various surreal images including a fetus and a metal vise. Such works announced Kahlo's mature style, at once fantastically imaginative and highly personal. Surrealism was a major part of that style; although Kahlo denied any connection between her and the Spanish-French surrealists led by Salvador Dalí, she sometimes allowed her works to be included in exhibitions of surrealist art.

Indeed, such Kahlo works as My Birth, in which an adult Kahlo is seen emerging from her mother's womb, seem imbued with the psychoanalytic concerns that provided surrealism's underpinnings, but Kahlo's own ideology was more public-spirited. Whatever ugly disagreements might flair between Kahlo and Rivera over the course of their 25-year marriage (interrupted by a one-year divorce in 1939 and 1940), they shared the conception that they were making art for the public good. As an art teacher in the1940s, Kahlo organized her students into mural-painting brigades. Kahlo was capable of sympathetic portraiture; her Portrait of Luther Burbank (1931) portrays its subject as the top half of a living tree. But overall her works, mostly painted during the 1930s and 1940s, were predominantly self-portraits of one kind or another.

Those self-portraits gained their intensity in part from the turbulence of Kahlo's married life, which was marked by extramarital liaisons on both sides. Rivera had an affair with Kahlo's sister Cristina, and Kahlo retaliated by becoming involved with, among others, American artist Georgia O'Keeffe and the exiled Soviet leader Leon Trotsky. Kahlo suffered several more miscarriages, which are thought to have been aftereffects of the 1925 bus accident. After more than 30 operations, Kahlo had also developed an addiction to painkillers.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - PersonalFrida Kahlo: 1907—1954: Artist Biography - Affected By Mexican Revolution, Suffered A Miscarriage, Madonna Collected Kahlo Works