Tuesday, February 8, 2011


By Eva Fydrych

Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán near Mexico City. Perhaps best known for her self-portraits, Kahlo's work is remembered for its "pain and passion", and its intense, vibrant colours.

Kahlo started painting after a serious bus accident in 1925 that changed her whole life and had a huge impact on her artistic work. Shortly thereafter, painting became her full-time career and her way to deal with her own imperfections, health problems, and emotional ups and downs. She created 143 surrealist paintings, 55 of them are self-portraits that often incorporate symbolic wounds. Kahlo's paintings were influenced by the Mexican culture and mythology and Amerindian cultural tradition. Christian and Jewish themes often appear in her work as well. When asked why she painted so many self-portraits, Frida replied:

"Because I am so often alone... because I am the subject I know best."

In 1953, when Frida Kahlo had her first solo exhibition in Mexico (the only one held in her native country during her lifetime), a local critic wrote:

"It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography."

Her personal life was complicated. In 1929 she married the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, 20 years her senior. Their relationship was passionate and survived many crises: divorce, remarriage, infidelities, Diego's affair with her sister, Frida's poor health, and her inability to have children. For most of their marriage they lived in separate houses connected together with a bridge. Frida once said:

"I suffered two grave accidents in my life… One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego."

In her traditional Mexican dress (1941)
Kahlo died on July 13, 1954 as a result of pulmonary embolism. Some people suspected she may have died from an overdose. However, an autopsy was not performed. Her last diary entry read:

"I hope the end is joyful - and I hope never to return - Frida."

More about Frida Kahlo:

Independent and strong, Frida wrote her own rules and developed a unique personal style. She made a signature look of her thick eyebrows and ink-black hair - centre parted and slicked into a bun. Frida used big, bold accessories and strong colorful makeup. She dressed in rugged men's suits or color-soaked Mexican traditional blouses and skirts. Conventions didn't stand a chance with Frida Kahlo...

Her personal style and her love of colour was as distinctive as her paintings. She combined traditional Mexican textiles with elaborate hairstyles and eclectic jewelry to create a remarkable look. Having a huge lust for life, she was charming and alluring, and had a seductive effect on many people around her. They admired her beauty, personality, talent and dark sense of humour. The clothes she wore were a reflection of her creativity and a bold statement against life difficulties that she faced since an early age.

Photo by Gaby Herbstein

The regional costume she adopted was of the matriarchal community of Tehuana in southern Mexico. The style of dress worn by Frida was a highly constructed performance - a political statement of pride in indigenous Mexican culture and a camouflage for her physical ailments.

Both her paintings and her personal style served as inspiration for many photographers and fashion designers around the world, such as Galliano and Lacroix. In fact, Jean Paul Gaultier's 1998 collection was inspired by Frida, "Homage to Frida Kahlo"- a Mexican corseted fantasy.

Jean Paul Gaultier (Source: Vogue Italy)

There was a fashion editorial in US Harper's Bazaar in November, 2001 dedicated to Frida Kahlo, with a Brazilian model Mariacarla Boscono portraying the famous painter. Photographed by Nathaniel Goldberg.

German Vogue (March 2010) featured a famous supermodel Claudia Schiffer as Frida Kahlo. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. Styled by Christiana Arp.

Laura Ponte as Frida Kahlo photographed by Iris Brosch for the French magazine L'Officiel (1998).

"Frida come back to me" - a fashion editorial by Denise Boomkers for Dujour Magazine.

Source: Fotolog

Tracy Rasinski captures Viva La Passion! for Fantastics Magazine.

Source: Fantastics Mag

Photoshoot by Prabuddha Dasgupta for vama Calender II.

Source: P. Dasgupta

FRIDA KAHLO - Life in pictures

Wearing red ribbons in her braided hair,
a blue embroidered blouse, a lariat
necklace and mismatched earrings.

At work in her studio (1931)

A self-portrait with her pet monkey (1938)

Kahlo with her husband,
the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (1930)

Signature look - bold accessories, flowers
in the hair, bright colours

Frida's unique hair style

"I don't paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality" - Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo continues to amaze and influence new generations of fashion designers, stylists and photographers all over the world. Her style seems to be timeless and easy to interpret in many different ways... More about Frida as a fashion icon and an inspiration for designers: Frida & Fashion.

A must read: Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress - The Fashion of Frida Kahlo

By Eva Fydrych
Article published in THE FASHIONGLOBE

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