Frida Kahlo was born on 6 July 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico, though she would often claim to have first seen the light of day in 1910, the year of the Mexican Revolution.
For Kahlo, the revolution was the embodiment of change, a social upheaval with which she was keen to associate herself throughout her life. In an effort to demonstrate her visible solidarity with the revolution towards the outside world, as well as with the painter Diego Rivera, her great love, Frida Kahlo always had a penchant for Mexican dress and hairstyles and for pre-Columbian Indian jewellery.
The sheer energy of Kahlo's personality mesmerised all those who experienced it and her house, the Casa Azul, fast became a meeting point for many from the worlds of politics and art who had been driven out of Europe by totalitarianism and war.
Kahlo's state of health deteriorated dramatically from 1940 onwards. The consequences of a serious bus accident at the age of 18 had massively changed her life, and she was forced to undergo a total of 32 operations due to the countless fractures and serious abdominal injuries she suffered. She was only able to cope with the constant pain by using alcohol and other drugs.
In order to survive, Kahlo painted precisely detailed self-portraits, overwhelmingly small format, in an attempt to illustrate both the physical and the spiritual agonies of the soul. Kahlo's art was deeply rooted in the Indian mythology of her Mexican homeland, and she used a symbolic, often surreal visual language.
With the help of special structures to enable her to work, Kahlo continued to paint for many months, against the advice of the doctors, while bedridden.
Shortly after her recovering from a lung inflammation, Frida Kahlo took part in a demonstration against the government. The exertion was to prove too much, and she died a few days later on 13 July 1954.