AMMAN- We see her paintings in galleries, read quotes by her all over the internet, and see her face on posters, books, and even socks. Mexican artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo would have turned 111 years-old today were she still alive -although if she was, she would probably lie and place her birth date in 1910 instead of 1907 in order to coincide with the Mexican Revolution. Regardless, as a tribute to La Reina, we bring you a list of compelling facts about her life and the posthumous impact she’s had on global culture.

1. An Accident At 18 Filled Her Whole Life with Physical Pain
At about the age of 18, Kahlo was involved in a life-altering accident in which the bus she had boarded crashed into a trolley car, causing a metal rail to impale her and breaking several bones. She would thence undergo more than thirty surgical operations throughout her life and endure several miscarriages. Paintings like Henry Ford Hospital and The Broken Column act as testaments to her torments, despite which she lived on zealously, continuing to see the beauty in life.  

Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital (1932). Oil on metal. 38.5 x 31 cm, Mexico.
Frida Kahlo, The Broken Column (1944). Oil on Masonite. 30.5 x 39 cm, Mexico

2. Her House Was Basically A Sanctuary For Plants And Animals
In her home, Casa Azul, which is now The Frida Kahlo Museum, Kahlo nurtured several exotic pets, including spider monkeys, parrots, an eagle, and a fawn, many of whom are featured in paintings such as Fulang Chang and I and Me and My Parrots. Some critics speculate that many of her pets acted as surrogates of the children Kahlo could not conceive due to her accident. However, her love of nature encompassed flora as much as it did fauna. Indeed, Kahlo’s personal garden was so biodiverse and rife with cultural and mythological symbolism that, in 2015, the New York Botanical Garden recreated it and opened the exhibition to the public.

Frida Kahlo, Fulang-Chang and I (1937). Oil on Masonite. 400 cm x 280 mm. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, US
Frida Kahlo, Me and My Parrots (1941). Oil on canvas. 820 x 628 mm. Harold H. Stream Collection, New Orleans, LA, US.

3. The Love of Her Life Cheated on Her Multiple Times -But So Did She
Kahlo’s longest relationship was her near-lifelong partnership with muralist Diego Rivera, whom she met at 15 years-old when the then 37-year-old artist was working on a commission at her high school. They married in 1929, divorced in 1939, and then got back together a year later. All throughout, the couple continuously cheated on each other, with Leon Trotsky, sculptor Isamu Noguchi, painter Georgia O’Keefe, and performer Josephine Baker being among Kahlo’s lovers. However, it was Rivera’s affair with Kahlo’s sister that broke the camel’s back, resulting in their divorce. Despite its tumultuous nature, Kahlo’s love for Diego seems to have been passionately unwavering and obstinately loyal, as paintings like Diego on My Mind (Self-Portrait as Tehuana) and her visual diary indicate.

Frida Kahlo, Diego On My Mind (Self-Portrait as Tehuana) (1943). Oil on Masonite. 76 x 61 cm, Australia.

4. She Inspired Some of Today’s Most Popular Music
While some of Kahlo’s paintings, like Tree of Hope, Keep Firm and Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair were informed by folk songs she listened to, they would also go on to inspire musicians of the future. Kahlo’s 1938 What the Water Gave Me, for one, inspired a haunting Florence + The Machine’s song of the same name that would reach number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.

Additionally, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida which would win the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 2009, was inspired by Kahlo’s 1954 still-life with the same title, one of her final paintings.

Frida Kahlo, Tree of Hope, Keep Firm (1946). Oil on Masonite. 559 x 406 mm. Daniel Filipacchi Collection, Paris, France.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940). Oil on canvas. 400 x 280 mm. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, US.
Frida Kahlo, What the Water Gave Me (1938). Oil on canvas. 910 x 705 mm. Daniel Filipacchi Collection, Paris, France.
Frida Kahlo, Viva la vida (1954). Oil paint. 720 x 520 mm. Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City, Mexico.

5. A Biographical Film Starring Salma Hayek Was Dedicated to Her

Mexican actor and producer Salma Hayek played the role of Kahlo in the dazzling 2002 biopic Frida, which won two Academy Awards and was nominated for six others upon release. Following the emergence of the #MeToo movement, Hayek wrote an opinion piece published by The New York Times in which she spoke up about her experience working on Frida under Harvey Weinstein, who is currently facing additional allegations of sexual assault from a third woman. Describing him as a “fun and witty” “loving father” and “a monster” at once, Hayek’s account of his sexual harassment and soul-crushing bullying during her early years as a rising artist sidesteps a unidimensional portrayal of the producer without disregarding the oppressive and abusive environment he had created on set. Despite his coerciveness, Hayek persevered for the sake of her art much like her idol, writing: “One of the forces that gave me the determination to pursue my career was the story of Frida Kahlo, who in the golden age of the Mexican muralists would do small intimate paintings that everybody looked down on. She had the courage to express herself while disregarding skepticism. My greatest ambition was to tell her story.”

It seems, during the last century, Kahlo transcended her corporeal form and infiltrated popular culture, reincarnated as prints, fashion, memes, and stories, but mostly as a symbol of perseverance, equality, artistic dedication, and bravery. On her 111th birthday, then, it is worth remembering her not merely for the artistic production that she’s inspired, but also for the strength and love of life that she has imbued in her many admirers.

Read more from Jad Dahshan.
Image courtesy indicated in captions.