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Frida Kahlo: The woman behind the legend

Known across the globe for her symbol-filled self-portraits, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is an icon. Her fierce determination and often-arduous life fueled her work. This TED-Ed from Iseult Gillespie briefly summarizes her 47 years, including the bus collision that changed the path of her life, her turbulent marriage to Diego Rivera, her political and cultural values, and the visual language of her paintings. Plus, from TED-Ed:

Born in Coyoacán in 1907, Kahlo is known for her resplendent imagery and unapologetic individualism. Animals and plants, along with her body, pain and spirituality, became signature themes of her unique visual language. She painted many eerie portraits, still lives and spiritual scenes – but it is her mesmerizing self-portraits which first caught people’s attention, and continued to captivate after her death.

Such work is groundbreaking because it turned self-portraiture inward – especially at a time when women often inhabited art only as men saw them. Kahlo insisted her personal experience mattered, and boldly documented the circumstances of her body, beliefs and every day life. These are often conveyed through symbols, which can be as sensuous as they are gruesome: from giant floating flowers and undulating landscapes, to transplanted body parts, skulls and billowing clouds of demons.

the two fridas
Find more of her work at

Watch these videos next: A New Republic: The portrait work of artist Kehinde Wiley, Tableaux Vivants: Caravaggio paintings performed live, and Relighting “Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque)” by Georges Seurat.

Bonus: Sara Berman’s Closet.

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