A century ago, in the Blue House, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Frida Kahlo came into the world, destined to live a life of suffering, but also to be remembered as one of the greatest woman artists of all time. A great artist certainly, but perhaps not a particularly good painter? She was self taught, and in my opinion is one of those powerful artists - Goya is another - who may not be technically brilliant, but who succeed as a result of the frankness and originality by which they communicate their view of the world and its woes.
Originally interested in medicine, Kahlo began to paint to overcome boredom, when immobilised and convalescing. Later, she wrote to Diego Rivera, the leading contemporary Mexican artist, to ask him for advice. He not only encouraged her work, he also began a relationship with her which lead to marriage in 1929, against the wishes of her family. Their relationship was tempestuous - both had affairs, Kahlo with women as well as men, Rivera with Kahlo's sister Cristina, among others. They often lived separately. A macho woman with a feminine man, Kahlo always said that he loved her moustache and she loved his breasts. They divorced in 1939. They remarried a year later. Both communists, Kahlo and Rivera befriended Trotsky when he was exiled to Mexico - it is said that Kahlo had an affair with him too. But first and last, Kahlo was passionately in love with Rivera: "Diego: the beginning, builder, my child, my boyfriend, painter, my lover, my husband, my friend, my mother, me, the universe."
"She is a figure that represents the conquest of adversity, that represents how - against hell and high water - a person is able to make their life and reinvent themselves and make that life be personally fulfilling... Frida Kahlo in that sense is a symbol of hope, of power, of empowerment, for a variety of sectors of our population who are undergoing adverse conditions."