Neurophilosophy

Frida Kahlo’s life of pain

broken_column.jpg

The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) had a life filled with pain. At the age of 6, she contracted polio, and this caused a paralysis of the right leg from which Kahlo took one year to recover. Then, in 1925, Kahlo was involved in a horrific traffic accident: the school bus she was travelling on collided with a streetcar, and a steel handrail penetrated Kahlo’s lower torso, leaving her with a fractured pelvis and collarbone, two broken ribs, a broken leg and a crushed foot. Her spinal column was also broken in three places.

Following the accident, the medics who arrived on the scene did not expect Kahlo to live, and she was left with the fatally wounded, so that her extensive injuries were not immediately treated. She survived, however, and then spent months in a full-body cast. Subsequently, Kahlo had more than 30 operations, and suffered from chronic pain for the rest of her life. Later on in life, Kahlo had several miscarriages, and had her right leg amputated.

Kahlo’s work is a reflection of the physical and mental anguish that she endured, and many of her paintings are self-portraits in which her pain is starkly depicted. In The Broken Column (1944, above), the landscape in the background, is broken, as was the artist’s body following her accident. Kahlo’s open torso reveals a spine consisting of a broken Greek ionic column. She wears a painful corset, and tears pour from her eyes. The skin on her face and body is pierced by many nails, including a large one piercing her heart, which represents the emotional pain caused by husband Diego Rivera.

Comments

  1. #1 rociocarranza
    February 6, 2008

    hello that’s cool why are you so into her life!!

  2. #2 Susie
    February 26, 2008

    I’m an art history major so… I’ve looked at a lot of art. Throughout the many fine artists I’ve studied, Frida has always been my favorite. It’s mainly because of paintings like this (one of my favs, btw!). I’ve had chronic pain for 3 years now, and nothing quite portrays how I feel like Frida’s pain centered paintings.

    I love how, despite all the pain she is in, her face remains impassive. It shows her ability to endure. Her inner strength is very inspiring to me….

  3. #3 MS
    February 26, 2008

    Kahlo’s work is on display right now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for anyone who might be in or near PHL. (Early review of the show here).

  4. #4 Carlie
    February 26, 2008

    I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of Frida Kahlo until my child came home talking about her, having learned a lot about her in art class. In 2nd grade. My school district is awesome.

  5. #5 Tiegan
    October 8, 2008

    I have just learnt about her today and find her life very interesting i was practicly in tears hearing about how much pain she went through. Yet she produced some symbolic and meaningfull work.

  6. #6 Ajlouny
    April 2, 2009

    Her injuries and physical well being (or not so well) is awesome in the fact that she was a survivor despite her pain. Her art work was incredible and so vivid, it burns in your memory.

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