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Neurological Deficits in the Life and Works of Frida Kahlo
World-famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is an impressive example of an artist whose entire life and creativity were extremely influenced by chronic, severe illness. Many of her best-known works depic
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Neurology and Art
Neurological Deficits in the Life and Works of Frida Kahlo
Budrys V. Author affiliations
Keywords: Neurology and artFrida KahloSpina bifidaPoliomyelitisSpine injuryNeuropathic pain
Eur Neurol 2006;55:4–10
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World-famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is an impressive example of an artist whose entire life and creativity were extremely influenced by chronic, severe illness. Many of her best-known works depict her physical and mental suffering. She was one of those very uncommon artists who dared to show their nude, sick body. This article describes biographical events and works of Frida Kahlo that are closely related to neurology: congenital anomaly (spina bifida), poliomyelitis, spine injury, neuropathic pain.
© 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel
Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) almost attained cult status for her extraordinary life and art. Tempestuous life-long love to prominent Mexican artist Diego Rivera, love affairs, infidelity, divorce and remarriage, several miscarriages, years of being bedridden or wheelchair bound, intractable pain and multiple unsuccessful operations defined this great artist’s talent. Interest in her works has dramatically increased, and nowadays Frida Kahlo ranks among the world’s most renowned 20th century female artists. Her deeply and even painfully personalized surrealistic paintings fascinate art lovers around the world.
It is difficult to find an artist whose life and works were more deeply affected by illness than Frida Kahlo’s. Her art is permeated by her struggle against medical hardships; physical and psychical suffering lay at the heart of her talent . She was one of those very uncommon artists who dared to show their nude, sick body. Many of her best-known works depict her physical suffering: her bleeding, broken and weeping body. Her paintings and drawings are like medical case reports. Interestingly, most of her maladies were related to neurology.
One could say that neurological problems in Frida Kahlo’s life started even before she was born in Coyoacán (a suburb of Mexico City) in 1907. The third daughter of a Mexican mother and German father was born with a congenital anomaly: spina bifida, i.e. nonfusion of the laminae of the spinal arches. This abnormality (a form of dysraphism) develops due to a defect in the formation of the primitive neural tube during the first 4 weeks of the intrauterine period. Depending on the severity of the fusion defect, spina bifida may be asymptomatic or present with different skeletal, urogenital and neurological manifestations, including deformation and trophic disorders of extremities (e.g. clubfeet), motor paresis and others .
What do we know about spina bifida in Frida Kahlo’s case? Her biographical essays usually completely ignore her malformation or merely mention it in passing. This is nothing unusual: as is often the case in patients with congenital defects, Frida Kahlo preferred to blame her leg problems on some external causes that took place during her life; poliomyelitis and trauma. Most of her doctors underestimated spina bifida, too. However, it is very likely that almost all of her life-long spine and leg problems related to spina bifida.
Her doctor and friend, famous American surgeon Leo Eloesser (she met him in San Francisco in 1930), noticed and properly evaluated Frida Kahlo’s spine anomaly: ‘X-rays showed a spina bifida, the decreased sensitivity in the lower part of her body was characteristically compatible with this disorder. Her disability grew and various operations to her right foot and leg made matters worse. To hide the disorder she wore long starched Mexican shirts’ [quoted from[ 3].
There are no surviving medical documents specifying the defect, but we do have the remarkable Frida Kahlo painting ‘What I saw in the water’ (fig. 1), illustrating various events from her life. The painting’s dominant element is a pair of feet sticking out of the bathtub water. We can clearly see the bleeding sore between the deformed big and second toes of the right foot, a typical defect accompanying congenital dysraphisms, including spina bifida. Do the small portraits of Frida Kahlo’s parents in the painting allude to her congenital defect? Who could deny it, the same as nobody would deny the mystical providence (impossible not to be related to Frida Kahlo’s disease) of the burning skyscraper?
Frida Kahlo. What I saw in the water, 1938. Collection Daniel Filipacchi, Paris.
In Frida Kahlo’s biographies, the earliest documented handicap is poliomyelitis (polio). Frida Kahlo caught polio in 1913, aged six, and had to spend several months in bed. The paralytic form of the disease was not badly disabling, however it did have some unavoidable consequences – her right leg remained slightly deformed and shorter than her left leg, so that she had to wear built-up shoes. Other children teased her about her ‘peg leg’ and this physical defect had a considerable psychological impact on an already energetic and rebellious child.
That polio was the only cause of Frida Kahlo’s leg and toe deformity is doubtful. More likely, the poliomyelitis only heightened an already existing slight congenital leg defect that became more notable as the child grew up, so her right leg problems were probably due to the combined effect of both conditions.
What illness did the Mexican artist...
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What illness did the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo suffer from as a child?
As a child, Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) had suffered from polio, which she fought to overcome so that she could earn a place at a medical school. The illness left her right leg slightly shorter than her left leg, meaning she needed to wear a special shoe for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, at 18 years old, Kahlo was involved in a bus accident that, whilst she was lucky to survive, left her with medical problems that would cause her pain for the rest of her life. Whilst lying in bed for three months after the accident, Kahlo occupied herself with painting. She had no formal art training but her early paintings suggest she drew inspiration from European Renaissance painters before developing her recognisable style.
Kahlo is remembered for her bold coloured self-portraits. These mostly document her life, but often cross the border into surrealism. Kahlo’s life experiences were the inspiration for the majority of her paintings, 55 of which were self-portraits. Kahlo was keen to depict her indigenous Mexican culture in her paintings but, most importantly, she wanted to demonstrate her physical and mental pain.
Self-portraits were a method of self-expression, initially helping Kahlo deal with the aftermath of the bus crash and later her unhappy marriage to Diego Rivera (1886-1957). They were also a way to connect with her Mexican heritage, which was gradually disappearing as Central America became more westernised.
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What are your thoughts on this subject?
Christopher Neal Wigley
My (deceased) father was a huge fan of her artwork.
rosemarymee 3d ago
Mexico is in North America, NOT Central America. Also, she married Diego twice. Some of us never learn...
Author: Hazel Writer Since12/2019
Why Was Frida Kahlo Sick? – ArtRadarJournal.com
Why Was Frida Kahlo Sick?
NOV 18, 2021
Frida suffered 11 fractures in her right leg after being broken in a serious bus accident. Her injuries included a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, and broken pelvis. A dislocated and crushed right foot, as well as a fractured shoulder, were also visible.
Table of contents
1. What is bad about Frida Kahlo?
2. What was Frida’s illness?
3. What illness did Frida suffer from since she was a child?
4. Why do some people not like Frida Kahlo?
5. What were Frida Kahlo’s problems?
6. What’s the big deal about Frida Kahlo?
7. Is Frida Kahlo a good painter?
8. why was frida kahlo sick?
9. Why was Frida Kahlo’s health so bad?
10. What caused Frida Kahlo’s death?
11. What was Frida Kahlo’s disability?
12. How did Frida Kahlo get gangrene?
13. Why did Frida suffer physically?
14. What was Frida Kahlo physically impaired?
What Is Bad About Frida Kahlo?
At age 18, Kahlo was seriously injured in a bus accident, breaking her spinal column, breaking her collarbone, breaking her ribs, breaking her pelvis, and breaking 11 bones in her right leg.
What Was Frida’s Illness?
After being ill with polio for several months, Frida Kahlo spent the rest of her life bedridden. Paralysis was not severely disabling, but there was one unavoidable consequence – her right leg remained slightly deformed and shorter than her left, which required shoes with built-in support.
What Illness Did Frida Suffer From Since She Was A Child?
Frida Kahlo contracted polio at the age of six, when she was born outside Mexico City. Her right leg, which was shorter than the left, became crippled because of the disease, and she now limps. Due to her long convalescence and the bullying she experienced from the neighborhood kids, Kahlo became lonely.
Why Do Some People Not Like Frida Kahlo?
Mexican artists and artistic productions are not limited to one genre or artist. The overestimation of Frida Kahlo can be attributed to a worshipping audience, which views her legacy in an uncritical manner. The idolatry of work has eroded the ability to approach work with emotion, even with a critical eye.
What Were Frida Kahlo’s Problems?
Despite chronic pain, infertility, and depression, she would face challenges in her physical and emotional well-being during adulthood. As a result of Kahlo’s pain and poor health, her artwork became a compelling subject matter.
What’s The Big Deal About Frida Kahlo?
Freda Kahlo was a Mexican artist known for her fantastical and uncompromising self-portraits that delved into subjects like death, identity, and the human body. The Surrealist label is often associated with her, even though she denied it.
Is Frida Kahlo A Good Painter?
A bus accident severely injured Frida Kahlo, who began painting mostly self-portraits after this. Frida Kahlo is considered to be one of Mexico’s finest artists. In 1929, Kahlo married fellow communist artist Diego Rivera. She later became politically active.
Why Was Frida Kahlo Sick?
Kahlo contracted polio when she was 6 years old. Because of the illness, her right leg was thin compared with her left leg and the decreased blood flow caused chronic pain. At the same time, she was forced to delay starting school for months because she was isolated from her peers.
Why Was Frida Kahlo’s Health So Bad?
As a child, Frida Kahlo suffered from poor health. Polio struck her when she was 6 years old, and she had to spend nine months bedridden. Her right leg and foot grew very thin as a result of this disease. As a result of her polio recovery, she limped.
What Caused Frida Kahlo’s Death?
Frida Kahlo / Cause of death: Pulmonary embolism h
What Was Frida Kahlo’s Disability?
knew from an early age that clothing had power. In addition to her fragmented body, she had also suffered from polio at age six and a near-fatal accident at 18 thanks to her disease.
How Did Frida Kahlo Get Gangrene?
It is like reading a medical case report in her paintings and drawings. It was determined that she contracted gangrene during a procedure that she did not need, which caused her leg to be amputated in 1953.
Why Did Frida Suffer Physically?
Poliomyelitis, or polio, was Frida’s first serious health problem when she was 6 years old. An infectious virus causes polio, which can be debilitating and potentially deadly.
What Was Frida Kahlo Physically Impaired?
– Mexican-born Frida Kahlo was a self-portrait painter who had multiple disabilities including polio as a child and spinal and pelvic damage as a result of a car accident. The young Kahlo was confined to a bed by polio when she was just six years old. She suffered damage to her right foot and leg as a result of the polio virus.
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Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.