Frida Kahlo Artistic Style: The Eternal Question of Surrealism or Realism

frida kahlo style of art

Frida Kahlo is one of the most prominent figures in the art of the twentieth century. Despite a terrible accident that changed her whole life, Frida managed to find herself, become one of the best artists in the world, and keep her fortitude until her last days. Frida Kahlo’s personal story is displayed in her artistic style. Let’s take a closer look at her work and figure out what kind of art did Frida Kahlo create.

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is best known for her self-portraits. She does not smile in any of her works. She is always serious, a little sad, with thick eyebrows and piercing black eyes. Her paintings are a reflection of herself. All her life she painted, loved, had fun, experienced, and overcame severe physical pain. But despite everything she had a strong desire to live. Many, at just one glance at the Frida Kahlo paintings, attribute it to surrealism, but is that so? The style of Frida Kahlo’s art is unique and touches to the core because it depicts the entire dramatic story of the artist.

When Frida was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with poliomyelitis. Because of this disease, the future artist was severely limp. Peers often teased her. But she did not want to put up with it, and despite her illness, the girl actively swam, played football with the boys, and even was boxing.

One of the decisive moments in Frida’s life is an accident that happened on a rainy evening in September 1925. The girl and her school friend were driving in a car that accidentally collided with a tram.

The force of the blow threw the young man out of the car. But he escaped with only a concussion. Frida suffered much more. The tram rod stuck in the stomach, thereby shattering the girl’s hip bone. Frida’s spine and hips were broken, and her sore leg was broken in eleven places at once. The artist underwent thirty-two operations. After this accident, Frida lay bedridden for several months. It was at this time that she began to paint. Her father built a special stretcher under the canvases so that she could write while lying down, and hung a mirror next to the bed. She started painting self-portraits.

Frida Kahlo Surrealism or Realism?

In 1940 Frida Kahlo took part in the International Surrealism Art Exhibition and exhibited her two biggest paintings: ‘The Wounded Table’ and ‘The Two Fridas’. Although Frida Kahlo did not consider herself a surrealist, her work was definitely surreal. This was noticed by Andre Breton, but Frida denied it, saying that she simply painted her reality.

What Type of Art Did Frida Kahlo Do?

Frida Kahlo’s painting style is unique, unlike the others, it can be described as folk art or naive art, with colorful motives of unusual Mexican culture. The main genre in the art of Frida Kahlo’s are self-portraits. “I write myself because I am the topic that I know best,” said Frida Kahlo. In these works, the artist metaphorically reflected the events of her life (‘Henry Ford Hospital’, ‘Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky’, ‘The Two Fridas’, ‘Marxism Will Heal The Sick’).

Experts believe that the 1940s was the beginning of the dawn of the art period Frida Kahlo, the time of her mature and most interesting works. With a deep analysis of the style of artwork Frida Kahlo, we can see that the symbolism of Kahlo is based on national Mexican traditions and intersects with Indian mythology.

What art movement was Frida Kahlo associated with? Although her work is ranked as surrealism, as we said above, Frida Kahlo did not agree with this. In Frida’s paintings, one can notice the strong influence of Mexican muralism, or, as it is also called, monumental painting. Strange as it may seem, but another prominent representative of this trend is Diego Rivera, the artist’s husband. Mexican muralism is a mixture of different directions, the main ones being realism, cubism, and symbolism. And of course, the amazing Mexican flavor.

As for the work of Frida Kahlo, it is rather difficult to single out one trend. Folk art intersects with elements of surrealism and cubism, there is a pronounced symbolism. This is understandable because Frida Kahlo painted from the bottom of her heart and never tried to match any art movement.

The Most Famous Paintings by Frida Kahlo

‘Henry Ford Hospital’, 1932

frida kahlo painting style

Frida was pregnant more than once, but every time she lost her child. This story, full of suffering, she transferred on canvas. The painting depicts a woman in tears, lying on a bloody bed, surrounded by various symbolic elements: an embryo of a child, a snail, a purple orchid, a damaged pelvic bone, and an anatomical dummy.

‘The Bus’, 1929

frida kahlo surrealism

The painting depicts a group of passengers traveling by bus through Coyoacan. Among the different people depicted in the picture, a young girl catches the eye, who is probably Frida Kahlo.

The child looks out the window at a landscape full of tranquility, where there is a La Risa store (Laughter). This is characteristic of the artist’s black humor, which thus represented the moment before the accident in which she got on September 17, 1925.

‘The Two Fridas’, 1939

frida kahlo art movement

The canvas depicts two Fridas. One is from the past, where her life was connected with Diego Rivera. Another – from the present, where she is presented as a free lonely woman who suffers from blood loss. She tries to block off the bleeding artery with a medical instrument, but she doesn’t do it well – blood floods the hem of her snow-white dress.

‘Self Portrait with Monkey’, 1938

frida kahlo style of artwork

Here are collected several symbolic elements, often repeated from the works of Frida: a nail, a monkey, a sculpture of the pre-Columbian era, and a dog of the Xoloitzcuintli breed. A nail is driven into a wall – as in ‘The Broken Column’ – refers to the Mexican expression “to be nailed,” that is, deceived.

The monkey in Frida’s works is always a devoted friend that replaced her unborn child. In the Blue House, Frida Kahlo and her husband had many pets: monkeys, parrots, and Mexican Xoloitzcuintli dogs. The latter in the mythology of the Aztecs were considered sacred animals, the earthly embodiment of the God of thunder and death. In the self-portrait, the dog and pre-Columbian sculpture from the Rivera collection recall the ancient culture of Mexico, which was an important part of Frida Kahlo’s personal history.

‘The Broken Column’, 1944

frida kahlo genre

This is one of the most famous works of Frida Kahlo, which belongs to the cycle of self-portraits. The work is called the manifesto of Frida’s suffering and persistence before the blows of fate, an artistic symbol of female strength. On the canvas, in place of a broken spine, Kahlo depicted a destroyed column and hoops of a metal corset that tightened her body. Nails stuck in the body are a symbol of physical and mental suffering.
Frida Kahlo is an incredibly deep and interesting artist who amazes with her charisma and inner strength. Frida Kahlo’s type of art is based on personal pain, feelings, eroticism, and death. The canvases depict her dramatic and sometimes scary story. That is why the artist’s work makes such a strong impression. After all, the basis of any creativity is emotions, both pleasant and not. She never followed the lead of the crowd, but simply displayed her feelings and emotions on canvases, albeit sometimes shocking.

Do you like this article?
no 0


If you want to get in touch with ARTIK editorial team, you can send us a message using the form below. We take a lot of bathroom breaks, so please be patient.

Thank you for your comment

More Articles of Art

Distant Bliss Sculpture

Pharrell Williams, Richard Mille, and Coarse Present Distant Bliss Sculpture

Richard Mille has just presented a sculpture, designed together with the duo coarse from Los...

Famous Large Scale Artworks

Incredible Collection of Large Large Paintings on Canvas of All Times and Styles

Great art is not measurable in length or breadth. From giant sculptures to miniature paintings,...

Michelangelo’s La Pieta

Students Ask Kelly Latimore’s Painting of Jesus To Be Removed From the University

Students of the Catholic University of America created a petition demanding to eradicate the...

Open Your Eyes Exhibition

Javier Calleja and Case Studyo Collaborate Together for the Open Your Eyes Exhibition

Meet the duo's exhibition, open at UNDERGROUND and 3110NZ, that will remind you to Open Your Eyes....


You can do what you like and get paid! Write articles on the topic you like, work at home with well-paid work!

This site uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.