Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, Frida Kahlo started painting mostly self portraits whilst in a body cast, after suffering a road accident in her teens.

The accident left her in a great deal of pain, so she started painting to occupy her time, mainly gaining inspiration by the nature and artifacts of Mexico and her own personal experiences.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up exhibition at the V&A London (photograph: Nickolas Muray)

Having painted 143 paintings in her lifetime, 55 of which were self-portraits; Kahlo was deeply influenced by Mexican culture, which is apparent in her use of bold, vibrant colours and dramatic symbolism.

Alongside her notoriety for art and her interest in politics, Kahlo is also recognised for her fashion- most notably her colourful Mexican dresses. In 1938, whilst in New York for an exhibition, she caused a ‘sensation’ in her vibrant dress and was made to be seen as the ‘height of exotica’.

Time Magazine noted the ‘vivid reds and yellows of Mexican tradition’ in the way she dressed. This can be seen in her second self-portrait, ‘Time Flies‘, in which she uses bright colours. She wears peasant clothing, whilst the red, white & green in the painting are the colours of the Mexican flag.

Frida Kahlo: Time Flies Self Portrait (photograph:

At the invitation of Andre Breton (a French writer & poet), she went to France in 1939, where she featured her paintings in a exhibition. The Louvre bought one of her paintings, The Frame which was displayed at the event. This was an incremental step in Kahlo’s career and the first work by a 20th Century Mexican artist ever purchased by the French museum.

Kahlo did not sell many paintings in her lifetime and only had one solo exhibition in Mexico, in 1953, just a year before her death at the age of 47, caused by a pulmonary embolism.

Today, her works sell for millions- her self portrait ‘Roots‘, was sold for $5.62 million in New York in 2006, which sets a record for the most expensive Latin American work ever purchased at auction and also makes Frida Kahlo one of the highest selling women in art.

Frida Kahlo's Roots Self Portrait (photograph:

You can find out more about our inspiration at the Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up exhibition at the V&A Museum in London until 4th November 2018.

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