From the Writer's Almanac the other day, about one of my favorite women in the world, Frida Kahlo:
It's the birthday of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, born near Mexico City (1907). Her father was a Hungarian Jewish immigrant to Mexico, and he operated a photography studio. She admired him greatly and from an early age hung around at his studio and learned how to hand paint color onto black-and-white photographs. She contracted polio when she was six years old, which left her right leg deformed and then, when she was 18, she was in a streetcar accident in which she was impaled by a steel bar. The accident broke her spine in three places, her leg in 11 places, and both her feet and her collarbone and pelvis were crushed. She nearly died and spent months in a plaster cast. To help her pass the time, her mother built her a special bedside painting stand, and she began painting for the first time.
She suffered from health problems for the rest of her life. Doctors operated on her more than 30 times, trying to fix problems with her back and her legs. She had several miscarriages. She eventually had to have one leg amputated. She was forced to wear spine-supporting corsets, and she spent months at a time in bed. It was during these bed-ridden periods that she produced most of her paintings. She had few subjects to chose from, so most of the time she just set up a mirror and painted herself. She said, "I paint myself, because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best."
She didn't have her own major solo exhibition until 1953, the same year she had her leg amputated. She was carried into the show on a stretcher and then laid down on a four-poster bed in the middle of the gallery, as though she were one of the art works. She died the following year. She was 47 years old.
Over the course of her lifetime, she only produced about 140 paintings. About a third of her paintings are self-portraits that depict physical or psychological pain. She's now considered one of the greatest Mexican artists, and one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century.