My kids and I went on an educational vacation to Austin, Texas some years ago. Our primary objective was to visit the Harry Ransom Center to view their copy of the Gutenberg Bible. At the center, we also discovered some great art and letters. One of the paintings on display was Frida Kahlo‘s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird. The docent did her job well — she brought Frida to life for us. Thus began our love affair with this beautiful and intriguing woman.
Over 100 years ago, Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón (best known as simply Frida Kahlo) was born in Mexico. Kahlo was an openly bisexual communist artist who was married to the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, with whom she had a stormy, utterly passionate relationship.
Her story is inspiring. She contracted Polio at the age of six. That left her with one leg thinner than the other and one of her feet deformed. She wore long, colorful traditional Tehuana costumes to camouflage this. When she was 18 years old, she was injured in a trolley car accident and spent a year in bed recovering from fractures to her spine, ribs, collarbone, a shattered pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, and her shoulder. A punctured uterus left her unable to have children. She had more than thirty operations and spent most of her life in pain and flat on her back.
She began painting because it was one of the few things she could do lying flat on her back in bed. She married Diego Rivero when she was 22. He was chronically unfaithful and she retaliated with affairs of her own — with both men and women, including Georgia O’Keefe and Leon Trotsky. At one point, she and Diego divorced but they later remarried.
Diego himself perhaps described her work better than anyone else ever could:
“I recommend her to you, not as a husband but as an enthusiastic admirer of her work, acid and tender, hard as steel and delicate and fine as a butterfly’s wing, lovable as a beautiful smile, and as profound and cruel as the bitterness of life.”
Frida had a dark sense of humor and a sharp wit, according to biographers.
Frida had huge lust for life. She had a seductive effect on many people and charmed everyone. People loved her beauty, personality, and talent. She was also known for her dark sense of humour and sharp wit. Frida loved dancing, drinking and parties. She took great pride in keeping a home for Diego and loved looking after him. She lavished attention on her pets – mischievous spider monkeys, dogs, cats and birds and adored children. She loved nonsense, gossip and dirty jokes and abhorred pretension. She treated servants like family and students like esteemed colleagues.
Frida Kahlo died in 1954 at the age of 47.
While I do love art, words are my true love, my passion. I love powerful quotes — and artist quotes — so I’ve gathered below every Frida Kahlo quote I can find. It’s very fortunate for us that she kept a diary, which has also been published.
1. I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.
2. Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?
3. I paint flowers so they will not die.
4. There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.
5. I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and I’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.
6. The most interesting thing about the so-called lies of Diego is that, sooner or later, the ones involved in the imaginary tale get angry, not because of the lies, but because of the truth contained in the lies, which always comes forth.
7. I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.
8. I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.
9. They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
10. I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.
11. I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.
12. I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.
13. At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.
14. Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.
15. Tragedy is the most ridiculous thing.
16. They are so damn ‘intellectual’ and rotten that I can’t stand them anymore. I would rather sit on the floor in the market of Toluca and sell tortillas, than have anything to do with those ‘artistic’ bitches of Paris.
17. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.
18. I must fight with all my strength so that the little positive things that my health allows me to do might be pointed toward helping the revolution. The only real reason for living.
19. I leave you my portrait so that you will have my presence all the days and nights that I am away from you.
20. Really, I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I do know that they are the frankest expression of myself.
22. The most important thing for everyone in Gringolandia is to have ambition and become ‘somebody,’ and frankly, I don’t have the least ambition to become anybody.
23. You deserve the best, the very best, because you are one of the few people in this lousy world who are honest to themselves, and that is the only thing that really counts.
24. I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration.
25. My painting carries with it the message of pain.
26. Painting completed my life.
27. People in general are scared to death of the war and all the exhibitions have been a failure, because the rich don’t want to buy anything.
28. Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.
29. I cannot speak of Diego as my husband because that term, when applied to him, is an absurdity. He never has been, nor will he ever be, anybody’s husband.
30. Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.
31. I wish I could do whatever I liked behind the curtain of ‘madness’. Then: I’d arrange flowers, all day long, I’d paint; pain, love and tenderness, I would laugh as much as I feel like at the stupidity of others, and they would all say: Poor thing, she’s crazy! (Above all I would laugh at my own stupidity.) I would build my world which while I lived, would be in agreement with all the worlds. The day, or the hour, or the minute that I lived would be mine and everyone else’s – my madness would not be an escape from ‘reality’.
32. Pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence.
33. No moon, sun, diamond, hands –
fingertip, dot, ray, gauze, sea.
pine green, pink glass, eye,
mine, eraser, mud, mother, I am coming.
34. I want to be inside your darkest everything.
36. Only one mountain can know the core of another mountain.
37. I am nauseated by all these rotten people in Europe – and these fucking “democracies” are not worth even a crumb.
38. It was worthwhile to come here only to see why Europe is rottening, why all this people – good for nothing – are the cause of all the Hitlers and Mussolinis.
40. To feel the anguish of waiting for the next moment and of taking part in the complex current (of affairs) not knowing that we are headed toward ourselves, through millions of stone beings – of bird beings – of star beings – of microbe beings – of fountain beings toward ourselves.
41. I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.
42. I hope the exit is joyful. And I hope never to return.
I hope you enjoyed these artist quotes by Frida Kahlo. You can see Frida in video below. An amazing compilation. I’d also recommend reading The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait and introducing your kids to her via the movie about her life, Frida.