Frida Kahlo once said, “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Of her 140 or so paintings, 55 of them were self-portraits, a testament to the habit of solitude she developed after an accident as a young adult left her with shattered bones and chronic pain. Themes of physical and psychic injury occupy her surrealist art, as in A Few Small Nips and The Little Deer, which compliment her bright colors inspired by indigenous Mexican styling.
Even before they married Kahlo was an admirer of fellow painter Diego Rivera‘s work. She met him while he was working on a mural at the Public Ministry of Education, and, showing him several of her paintings, asked if he thought she was gifted. Two years later they married and promptly began cheating on each other, him with her sister and her with a parade of brilliant celebrities, including Leon Trotsky – both she and Rivera were staunch communists, though they switched to Stalinism when Trotsky was assassinated after moving out of their house – and Josephine Baker, the world-famous entertainer.
In her late 40s her health rapidly declined, and she turned to alcohol and drugs after losing the better part of one leg to gangrene. Eight days before she died she wrote the date of her death in the watermelon pulp of her last painting, Viva la Vida.