Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Frida Kahlo

Now recognized as one of the great painters of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo’s life had been one of suffering and pain. Born in Mexico, she had polio at age six, leaving her with a contracted left leg. At the age of 20 she had a serious bus accident that fractured her spinal column, clavicle, ribs, pelvis, and her right leg in 11 places, dislocated her right foot and shoulder, and caused a penetrating injury of her abdomen and uterus. She remained in pain for the rest of her life, underwent as many as 35 operations, and was often confined to bed or hospital for long periods. She had enrolled in medical school, but after her accident spent her life painting. Her works reflect her physical and psychological wounds, as a well as her tempestous marriage to the prominent Mexican painter Diego Riviera.

Tree of hope Henry Ford Hospital frida kahlo

Tree of hope, 1946
Oil on Masonite, 22″ x 16″
Courtesy of the Frida Khalo Foundation

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932
Oil on metal, 12 1/4″ x 15 1/2″
Collection of Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City

The two Fridas, 1939
Oil on canvas, 68″ x 68″
Courtesy of the Frida Khalo Foundation


Selection of quotes by Frida Kahlo:

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”

“Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly.”

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”

“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”

“I suffered two grave accidents in my life . . . . One in which a streetcar knocked me down and the other was Diego.”

Her last diary entry read: “I hope the end is joyful—and I hope never to return—Frida.”



  1. Artquotes.net. “Frida Kahlo Quotes.” Available from: http://www.artquotes.net/masters/frida-kahlo/kahlo-quotes.htm.
  2. FridaKahlo.com. “Biography.” Available from: http://www.fridakahlo.com.



GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief


Highlighted in Frontispiece Spring 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 2
Spring 2012  |  Sections  |  Art Flashes

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