Kahlo's life was a constant battle against pain, sustained by art or love. Struck at the age of six with polio, which withered her right leg, when she was eighteen she broke her spine when a bus she was riding collided with a tram. Kahlo was bedridden for a year and made her first painting during her convalescence, Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. She continued to produce autobiographical paintings, created less out of narcissism than the passionate need to understand her fate and portray, through her own experience, the condition of women. In 1929 she married Diego Rivera, a well-known muralist, twenty-one years her senior, whom she accompanied on a three-year visit to the United States, where he'd been commissioned to do murals in San Francisco, New York and Detroit. After returning to Mexico, Kahlo and Rivera hosted Trotsky and his companion, Natalia Sedova, in 1937, at their Blue House in Coyoacán, whereupon Kahlo had an affair with the aging revolutionary and offered him her self-portrait, Between the Curtains. In April 1938 André Breton arrived in Mexico with his wife, Jacqueline, and admired the portrait at length in Trotsky's study: "Robed in gilded butterfly wings, it is really in this guise that she draws aside the mental curtain." He expressed his delight and surprise on seeing that Kahlo's work "bloomed in surrealism" unawares. In November 1938 Breton arranged a show of her work at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York, and in the catalog essay de-scribed her painting as "a ribbon around a bomb." In January 1939 Kahlo traveled to Paris and stayed at Breton's home on Rue Fontaine, but she was irritated at having to share a room with his daughter and blamed him for an intestinal malady she contracted after a meal. Worse, he chose only two of her paintings, grouping them with woodcuts by José-Guadalupe Posada, for the exhibition, Mexique, that he organized at Galerie Renou et Colle, in March 1939. She took offense and sought refuge with Marcel Duchamp at the studio he shared with Mary Reynolds, declaring that she liked him better than any of the other surrealists, including Max Ernst. These reactions from a hypersensitive young woman did not prevent Kahlo from being unquestionably a surrealist—a title bestowed by André Breton, whose expertise cannot be contradicted in the matter. Breton did not ask her to belong to the group formed around him, as he believed that she was, in complete freedom, an involuntary representative of surrealism in Mexico. The victim of a turbulent love life, Kahlo divorced Rivera in 1939, only to remarry him in 1940. She became a teacher at the Art School of Esmeralda in 1943, where she had only four students, nicknamed "los Fridos." Her health problems finally worsened to the point that, in 1950, she underwent six operations on her spine. Kahlo expressed her personal drama in symbolic paintings: She Who Gives Birth to Herself, depicting herself nude on a bed giving birth to a new Frida. In 1953 she had an exhibition at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, and that same year her right leg was amputated. No longer drawing inspiration from her body, she painted still lifes. Her last painting reproduced slices of watermelon, with the inscription, "Viva la vida." Her diary, which she kept from 1944 until her death, contained notations of dreams, drawings and confessions in automatic writing, proving to what extent she was steeped in the spirit of surrealism. In 1954 Kahlo died of a pulmonary embolism, according to the official diagnosis, but some say she committed suicide.
Following the 1977 exhibition Homage to Frida Kahlo at the Palace of Fine Arts of Mexico City, she gradually became one of modern art's legendary figures.
Born 1907 and died 1954 in Coyoacán, Mexico.