Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon was born July 6, 1907, to Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez and Guillermo Kahlo - a German-Jewish émigré photographer - in Coyoacan, Mexico.
In 1922, Kahlo entered a premedical program at the Preparatoria, the best educational institution in Mexico, where she was as well-known for her sharp intelligence as for her wry mischief and pranks.
On September 17, 1925, Kahlo was in a tragic trolley car accident. She suffered severe injuries - her spinal column, collarbone, ribs, leg and foot were broken, and her abdomen was impaled with a steel handrail. She would live with painful complications from the accident for the rest of her life.
Three years later, Kahlo met famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who had already left two marriages and three children and had countless affairs. Undeterred by Rivera's reputation, Kahlo showed him her paintings, seeking advice on her potential as a painter. Rivera thought the canvases, like the girl who brought them, were extraordinary. "It was obvious to me that this girl was an authentic artist," he later wrote. "The work, her room, her sparkling presence, filled me with a wonderful joy."
They were an unlikely couple. Kahlo, at 21, was 20 years Rivera's junior. He was more than six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. Kahlo was 5'3" and weighed less than 100 pounds. But they entertained each other and were never bored together. To her, Rivera was the world's greatest artist, the "architect of life." To him, she was "a diamond in the midst of many inferior jewels."
On August 21, 1929, in a civil ceremony in Coyoacan, Kahlo and Rivera married. Kahlo became pregnant in the first year of marriage but had the first in a series of abortions and miscarriages, as it was feared her injuries from the accident could lead to fatal complications.
In 1930, Kahlo and Rivera moved to the United States so that he could pursue commissions for his murals. Kahlo was intensely unhappy, and they returned to Mexico in 1933. Kahlo's first exhibition was in 1938 at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York City. She exhibited and sold 25 paintings.
A generally tumultuous marriage and a series of infidelities led the Riveras to divorce in 1939. In addition to Rivera's indiscretions - which included affairs with movie stars, sports heroes and Kahlo's own sister - Kahlo had affairs with Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and is rumored to have had an affair with Jacqueline Lamba, wife of French surrealist André Breton. Kahlo and Rivera remarried in late 1940 and remained married until Kahlo's death.
Kahlo continued to paint until the end of her life, her later paintings revealing her physical deterioration. On July 13, 1954, Kahlo died from a pulmonary embolism.