Frida Kahlo: The sources of inspiration behind her artistic journey

July 11, 2023
9 min read
Jair Lucena
Written by
Jair Lucena
Frida Kahlo: The sources of inspiration behind her artistic journey

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Frida Kahlo: The sources of inspiration behind her artistic journey

Frida Kahlo: The sources of inspiration behind her artistic journey

July 11, 2023
Frida Kahlo: The sources of inspiration behind her artistic journey

Undoubtedly, Frida Kahlo is one of the most influential female artists in history. Her portraits, art style, and powerful personality have made her a global icon that not only keeps on inspiring other artists but also LGTB and feminist movements throughout the world.  

This article's purpose is not only to explore her primary sources of inspiration as a female artist in a 20th-century patriarchal Latin-American society but also to portray the human being behind the icon and the sensitive side of a genius marked by tragedy, melancholy, and loss. 

Explore Frida Kahlo's creative process with us and get inspired by her originality and vision. We are confident that you will find them helpful in fulfilling your creative role in the most sublime manner.

The art of resilience: Drawing strength & creativity from the struggles

Frida's continuous physical and emotional struggle was an undeniable fact about her life.

At the age of 6, she suffered from Polio. This illness made her right leg considerably thinner than the other and caused her to limp throughout her life. 

At 18, while studying at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City, she suffered a terrible bus accident that destroyed her hip and broke her spine, collarbone, pelvis, and several other bones. Due to this accident, she underwent more than 30 surgeries and suffered significantly from chronic pain.

While in her excruciating recovery, she spent long periods alone looking at her disabled body in the mirror. In such moments, the inspiration to paint appeared, and she used herself as a model.

Just like other remarkable artists, she found her art as a catalyst. Her famous portraits often depict her emotional and physical suffering in a beautiful and rebellious form. 

Pain and suffering can become obstacles in our lives, but sometimes they can also motivate us to dive deep within ourselves, find our truth, and a unique way to express our emotions sublimely.

Just imagine seeing our limitations, struggles, and difficulties, just like Frida did, and enabling them to connect us with an inner reservoir of inspiration that pushes us to become who we are meant to be.

Source: Joshua Sequillion on Behance

Embracing culture as a catalyst for artistic transformation

Aliveness and intensity are firmly knitted in Mexican culture.

Frida was profoundly influenced by her homeland's rich history and folklore. She often found inspiration in traditional ceramics, textiles, and religious paintings, employing Mexican colours and shapes in her art to portray her struggle and her inner world’s vision.

Mexican history also strongly shaped her art, including the Mexican Revolution and the struggles that her fellow compatriots experienced and still do, such as poverty, social inequality, and violence. 

Frida took her heritage as a Mexican to heart and portrayed it in a strong, proud, and dignified way through her paintings. 

In terms of our creative work, diving deep into culture is paramount. What an artist does is mainly recreate rather than create. Frida is a clear example of an artist that uses everything that culture provides, including the beautiful and ugly aspects and transforms them into immortal pieces that caress the soul of humanity.

Unleashing creativity through nature's wonders

Nature is our very essence. Even so, if we try our best to believe the opposite and act against it, we are not separate from nature, but instead, we are an active fragment of it.

Frida understood this interconnected principle clearly and recognised nature as the primary source of her creative power. In fact, some of her self-portraits depict her image  woven into the earth. A wild woman, fully rooted and entirely dependent on Mother Earth. 

While living in her famous "Blue House" in Coyoacan as a small child, she spent lots of time in her garden. Such a beautiful habit didn't disappear as the years went on. 

As an adult, while living in different places worldwide with her famous partner, the painter Diego Rivera, she was always looking for homes surrounded by nature—places to sit and contemplate the natural rhythms of life through flowers, trees, and insects.

In her paintings, natural ornaments often transmit her pantheistic view of life. 

If you are looking for inspiration, taking a walk in nature, sitting somewhere quiet, and experiencing moments of contemplation are always great ideas to connect with natural beauty and tap into your creative potential again.


How ancient art reveals our enduring creative spirit

Mexico is rich in gastronomy, music, and folklore, but its ancient land is also charged with mystery, and it’s the source of some of the world's most advanced, well-preserved, and alive indigenous cultures.

Frida was a deeply spiritual artist, and the devotional aspect of her being transformed her art into a form of adoration, not only for her catholic roots but also for the ancient gods and goddesses of the Aztecs.

In some of her paintings and self-portraits, she depicts herself as Virgin Mary holding a baby in her hands (perhaps due to her unfulfilled desire to become a mother). Yet, she also painted Coatlicue, the mother of all gods and humans in Aztec cosmogony. 

She often included indigenous sacred animals and plants as part of her paintings. For instance, monkeys represented sin and playfulness for the Aztecs, while deer, birds, and butterflies were symbols of transformation and freedom.

Indeed, our longing for union, a sense of belonging, and an attempt to express the ineffable have inspired immortal art pieces throughout history.

We can always find the right path to create the most original ideas by examining such ancient expressions. Be sure they all point to the same creative principle that has lived in us since the beginning of time. 

Source: Frida Kahlo mural in Buenos Aires © Buenos Aires Street Art

Nurturing creativity: The importance of artistic role models in crafting our masterpieces

Indeed, Frida Kahlo found other artists and movements as powerful guidance and inspiration sources.

She took her raw vision and emotional intensity from post-impressionists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin.

Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera, her most renowned partner, inspired her use of vibrant colours and her vision of Mexican political issues and social concerns.

But apart from such influences, she added to her work a dream-like expression closely related to surrealism, the predominant artistic movement at her time. Diego Rivera and her meeting in Paris with Breton and Chagall strengthened her connection to surrealism.

As creatives, having inspiring references and work examples is paramount. In such people and their work, we can always find an unlimited source of inspiration that will ultimately shape our own authentic world vision and determine our creative work.  

Discovering our unique voice by embracing life's dualities

Suffering and the vicissitudes of life, culture, nature, spirituality, and art were among Frida Kahlo's primary sources of inspiration. Through them, she produced the most authentic craft that still distinguishes her from other contemporary artists of the time and makes her an iconic figure. 

Finding inspiration in the whole of life with all its beauty and terror, as Frida did, will take us one step closer to identifying our authentic voice and style as painters, writers, designers, filmmakers, etc. 

Frida Kahlo's vision will help us find inspiration in the ever-present aspects of life to contribute with our craft to add more beauty to the world and create a more authentic version of ourselves as artists.

Jair Lucena

Jair Lucena

Jair is a traveler, writer, and yoga-meditation teacher-practitioner. Who loves to explore different lands, cultures, and ways of being. Connect with him on Linkedin

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