Painting With The Girls 198
July 16, 2016
Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón, on July 6, 1907, in Coyoacan, Mexico.
Her father was a German Jew of Hungarian descent, who immigrated from Baden-Baden to Mexico. He initially worked in the jewelry business until his first wife died giving birth to their second daughter. Shortly after, he married Matilde Calderón, a co-worker. Matilde was a Mexican mestizo, of mixed Indian and European lineage and a devoted Catholic. She decided not to raise Guillermo’s first two daughters. She sent the baby and the toddler to a convent orphanage. Matilde and Guillermo then had four daughters, Matilde, Adriana, Frida and Cristina. A brother also was born, but died shortly after birth.
Guillermo Kahlo took over his father-in-law’s photography business right after his marriage to Matilde. He flourished in his work and chose his favorite daughter, Frida, to accompany him on his daily trips. He was a painter himself, an avid reader, and he enjoyed literature and playing the piano. He was a great influence on her youth, and Frida felt close to him. She was usually the person who was present when he had epileptic seizures while he worked. She made sure he was safe and his equipment was not stolen.
Frida entered elementary school late because of her polio. This was likely one of the reasons she lied about being younger. Her father helped her to overcome all the teasing she suffered because of her leg deformity. He encouraged her to do swimming and boxing for exercise so that she could develop strength in her legs. He reassured her when she felt alone, and inspired her with art and reading. She learned to bring watercolors on her outings and paint to express what she felt.
Frida’s relationship with her mother was completely different from the warmth of her father’s love. In her diaries she wrote that her mother couldn’t read or write, but could count money well. In fact her mother was a good writer, but Frida thought her to be rigid and uninterested in knowledge and scholarly matters. She wrote her mother was cruel and didn’t love her father. She had loved another boy in her youth and never gotten over the fact he killed himself in her presence.
Her father became successful in the photography business and the government hired him to take photos of the renaissance Mexico experienced after the revolution of 1910. With that money he bought the blue house, La Casa Azul, where Frieda was raised and enjoyed her youth in post revolution Mexico. The first years of Frida’s life were influenced by the excitement of new political views and the rejuvenated Mexican culture that shaped the intellect of its citizens.