Frida Kahlo's freak bus accident which changed the life of a national icon

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Frida Kahlo's career as an artist began while recovering from a bus accident (Image via Getty Images)
Frida Kahlo's career as an artist began while recovering from a bus accident. (Image via Getty Images)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series

While she continues to be the most significant female and Mexican artist in history, Frida Kahlo’s vibrant artwork and masterful self-portraits might not have existed were it not for a horrific bus accident.

Despite showing a talent for the arts as a child, Kahlo was accepted to the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1922 with the intention of studying medicine. 

On Sept. 17, 1925, Kahlo was severely injured in a bus accident while on her way home from school with her boyfriend, Alejandro Arias.

According to reports, Kahlo and Arias were set to board a near-empty bus when the then 18-year-old suddenly realized that she misplaced her umbrella. 

The pair went in search of the umbrella before catching a second wooden bus that was crowded with people. Shortly after Kahlo and Arias took their seats, the bus collided with an electric streetcar.

Frida Kahlo paints a woman on a canvas
Frida Kahlo was studying to become a doctor before becoming seriously injured in a bus accident. (Image via Getty Images)
circa 1950:  Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954), wearing a folk costume and flowers in her hair, leans her head on her hand while lying in a hammock.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1950: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954), wearing a folk costume and flowers in her hair, leans her head on her hand while lying in a hammock. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Kahlo’s pelvis was impaled by a steel handrail that punctured her abdomen and uterus and left her with a broken spinal column, as well as multiple broken ribs, a broken leg and collarbone as well as a dislocated and shoulder. 

While Arias escaped the crash relatively injury free, Kahlo was hospitalized for a month and underwent multiple surgeries.

After she was discharged from the hospital, Kahlo spent an additional two months bedridden while she recuperated from her injuries. It was during her convalescence that Kahlo requested her father, an artist, to bring her a set of paints. 

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Kahlo’s parents commissioned a specialty easel to be made so that she could paint while laying in bed. A mirror was fashioned above Kahlo so that she could paint her own portrait, thus sparking an intense passion that carried her throughout her life.

Kahlo blended surrealism with symbolism to create pieces that explored identity, sexuality, politics and the human body. Her image and likeness was a common recurrence in a majority of the approximately 200 paintings she created.

circa 1945:  Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) sits with her arms folded, looking down, in front of one of her paintings and a wooden bird cage. She wears flowers in her hair and a wooden necklace.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1945: Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907 - 1954) sits with her arms folded, looking down, in front of one of her paintings and a wooden bird cage. She wears flowers in her hair and a wooden necklace. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"I paint self-portraits because I am the person I know best. I paint my own reality,” Kahlo said. “The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to and I paint whatever passes through my head without any consideration."

In 1929, Kahlo sold her first work, "Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia)" known as "Two Women (Salvadora and Herminia)" in english , to American journalist Jackson Cole Philipps. The painting features two Indigenous Mexican women who reportedly worked in Kahlo's childhood home and is dated one month before Kahlo married fellow painter, Diego Riveira, 

In 2016, Kahlo's 1939 painting "Dos Desnudos en el Bosque (La Tierra Misma)" also known as "Two nudes in the Forrest (The Earth Itself)" set the auction record for Latin American artists, and was sold at Christie's for more than $8 million USD. 

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