(CNN) – Frida Kahlo’s image has become so ubiquitous, printed on all kinds of products, from Barbie dolls to shoes, that it’s easy to lose sight of just how radical she was. On the occasion of the anniversary of her birth, here is a look at the legacy of the most recognized Mexican artist.
She was very proud of her Mexican heritage
Kahlo was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico, to a German father and mother of Spanish and indigenous descent.
Although she was considered “mestizo” – a person of mixed European and indigenous descent – she identified closely with her indigenous heritage and loved the Mexican people.
When Kahlo was just three years old, the Mexican Revolution broke out. She grew up in the political chaos that led to the end of a nearly 30-year dictatorship and the establishment of a constitutional republic.
That turbulent time helped shape Kahlo’s worldview. By the age of 16, he had joined a local chapter of the socialist party. In his 20s, he became a member of the Mexican Communist Party.
For years, Kahlo even claimed that she was born in 1910, to be identified as a daughter of the revolution, according to the Frida Kahlo Foundation.
She remained on the left and a promoter of the Mexican people throughout her life.
He started painting after a near fatal accident
Kahlo had a number of health issues, but she never let them stop her from living life to the fullest.
As a child, she battled a serious case of polio that left her with various disabilities. According to the Frida Kahlo Foundation, the disease made her right leg thinner than her left, which she hid with long skirts.
As a teenager, she was seriously injured in a car accident, when a metal railing broke and punctured her pelvis, according to Smithsonian magazine. His spine, legs and feet were also fractured in the accident.
As a result of the crash, Kahlo was plagued by chronic pain and wore a plaster corset for her entire life.
In bed and bored, Kahlo began to paint with watercolors to pass the time. In fact, her mother had a special easel made so she could paint while lying down, according to the Frida Kahlo Corporation.
Later, he painted the work “The broken column”, which showed his plaster corset.
She married (twice) Diego Rivera
Kahlo met acclaimed Mexican painter Diego Rivera when she asked him to review her work. Although Rivera was 20 years older than her, their relationship quickly turned romantic. They later married in 1929.
Their marriages – they were married twice – were shaken by their fiery tempers and extramarital affairs, according to the Frida Kahlo Foundation.
The ups and downs of their relationship were the subject of multiple Kahlo works.
In “Self-Portrait with Short Hair,” which she painted months after her divorce, Kahlo is depicted sitting solemnly dressed in a man’s suit, holding long locks of her freshly cut hair. The oversized suit is similar to the one Rivera wore, and he was known to admire her long hair, which Kahlo painted on the floor.
He rejected the label of surreal
Kahlo is famous for her self-portraits, but that’s not all she painted.
He approached the still life, as in “Tunas”. He also painted strange and dark scenes. “What the water gave me” represents figures and landscapes floating in a bathtub.
She was often inspired by painful personal experiences, such as her stormy marriage, miscarriages, and medical procedures. Many of his self-portraits showed physical and psychological wounds, according to the Frida Kahlo Foundation.
Her paintings also incorporated themes of female empowerment and willpower.
Contemporaries, including the famous surrealist André Breton, described Kahlo’s work as surrealism. But it was a label that she flatly rejected.
“They thought it was surreal but it wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality,” Kahlo said of her critics, according to the Museum of Modern Art.
He used fashion as a political message
Kahlo intentionally mixed Western fashion with traditional indigenous clothing to make a political statement on cultural identity, nationalism, and feminism.
“(Frida Kahlo) created her distinctive style as a blend of traditional Mexican and European fashion, combined with the fundamental effects of her disabilities and her political beliefs: Kahlo as a bohemian artist, a Tehuana, a hybrid person,” said Circe. Henestrosa, co-curator of “Frida: Making Her Self Up”, a 2018 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Her anti-colonial style included modern dresses adorned with Mayan-influenced patterns, shawls, and traditional necklaces, among other accessories.
Over time, Kahlo became as famous for her unique looks as she was for her impressive handiwork.