What Materials Was Frida Kahlo's Art Made With?

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Many of Frida Kahlo's major works were done in oil paint.
Many of Frida Kahlo's major works were done in oil paint. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images)

Frida Kahlo's life, though fraught with personal pain and tragedy, was one that produced works of major significance to the tradition of Mexican painting and the history of feminist art. Beginning her career after sustaining serious injuries during a bus accident, Kahlo worked primarily in the medium of oil on canvas or masonite.

Biography

Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 in Mexico City. After contracting polio at the age of 7, Kahlo's right leg appeared smaller than her left, and she frequently wore long skirts to hide her deformity. After a bus accident in 1925, Kahlo suffered multiple injuries and spent three months in a body cast. Throughout her life, she was frequently in pain as a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, and received multiple surgeries to correct her injuries. Due to the extent of time she spent bedridden, Kahlo began to develop a career as a painter. She married painter Diego Rivera in 1929 and died in 1954 due to various medical complications.

Major Works and Themes

Frida Kahlo's major works tend to explore the themes of Mexican nationalism and indigenous painting traditions and concepts of feminism. Best known for her self-portraiture, some of her major works include "The Two Fridas," a portrait of herself in two different forms, "Diego and I" a self-portrait featuring a representation of her husband Diego Rivera on her forehead, and "Self-Portrait with Monkey." All of these paintings were done using oil paints on either canvas or masonite.

Oils

The majority of Frida Kahlo's works were done using the medium of oil. Oil painting has a rich history, which began during the European Renaissance. Many major works of Western art are done in an oil medium. Oil paints are composed of pigments that are distributed within an oil, commonly linseed oil. These oils help the paint dry more slowly than water-based paints, which dry by evaporation. Because of this, oil paintings can be rendered at a slower pace. All of Frida Kahlo's most significant works were painted using the medium of oil.

Masonite and Canvas

Regardless of the painter, canvas is one of the most commonly used mediums for oil painting. The canvas material is stretched over wooden stretcher boards and frequently coated with gesso before the paint is applied. Many of Frida Kahlo's paintings, including "Self-Portrait with Monkeys," were done on masonite, a smooth hardboard invented in the 1920s. This board became popular with painters shortly after its invention because of its smooth surface which required little preparation before applying paint.

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