The passion Frida Kahlo showed through her art and the determination to live life to the best of her ability has to impress even the hardest soul.Kahlo began to paint in 1925, while recovering from a near-fatal bus accident that devastated her body and marked the beginning of lifelong physical ordeals. Over the next three decades, she would produce a relatively small yet consistent and arresting body of work. In meticulously executed paintings, Kahlo portrayed herself again and again, simultaneously exploring, questioning, and staging her self and identity. She also often evoked fraught episodes from her life, including her ongoing struggle with physical pain and the emotional distress caused by her turbulent relationship with celebrated painter Diego Rivera.
In 2018 the V&A revealed how much her art and life were literally intertwined in the exhibition Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up. Until 2004, the artist’s extravagant and instantly recognisable wardrobe was locked away in the Blue House in Mexico City where she lived and died, along with her jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and some 6,000 personal photographs. The house became a museum, which eventually put some of these objects on display. The V&A somehow coaxed them out of Mexico for the first time, matching objects to drawings, paintings, letters and photographs to produce an intensely intimate portrait of the artist. It was a five star exhibition and the book is worth purchasing if you weren't able to see the exhibition - Frida Kahlo - Making Her Self Up.
Frida Kahlo's last painting is Viva la Vida, Watermelons. Painted in 1954 following complications from an amputated leg, she chose to paint watermelons for their significance to the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico. The painting is full of vibrant colours and depicts watermelons in still life in various cut shapes including whole, sliced in half, sliced in a quarter, and sliced in a flower-like shape. The watermelons each have different shades of green, perhaps symbolising changes in ripeness and therefore growing older or passing through various stages of life.
Kahlo said, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”