Artist Study: Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo Calderon was born at La Casa Azul (The Blue House) in Coyoacan, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City in 1907. Her father, Wilhelm Kahlo, was German, and had moved to Mexico at a young age where he remained for the rest of his life, eventually taking over the photography business of Kahlo’s mother’s family. Kahlo’s mother, Matilde Calderon y Gonzalez, was of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry, and raised Frida and her three sisters in a strict and religious household La Casa Azul was not only Kahlo’s childhood home, but also the place that she returned to live and work from 1939 until her death.

At age six, Kahlo contracted polio; a long recovery isolated her from other children and permanently damaged one of her legs, causing her to walk with a limp after recovery.

Kahlo was involved in a near fatal bus accident and suffered multiple fractures throughout her body, including a crushed pelvis, and a metal rod impaled her stomach. She spent one month in the hospital immobile, and bound in a plaster corset, and following this period, many more months bedridden at home. During her long recovery she began to experiment in small-scale autobiographical portraiture, henceforth abandoning her medical pursuits due to practical circumstances and turning her focus to art.

During the months of recovering at home, Kahlo’s parents made her a special easel, gave her a set of paints, and placed a mirror above her head so that she could see her own reflection and make self-portraits.

Born: July 6, 1907 – Coyoacan, Mexico

Died: July 13, 1954 – Coyoacan, Mexico

If you are looking for fun, vibrant art projects for your students, here are a few from the exquisite artist, Frida Kahlo. Her still lifes are great inspirations for students to springboard off of while reinforcing main art concepts.  Tempera paint backgrounds, overlapping fruit shapes created from previously painted paper, and highlights and shadows created with chalk pastels are all applied in this mixed media project. These vivid colors and movement of lines are a few qualities of Frida’s artwork.


Project One

Frida Kahlo: Fruit Still Lifes will introduce students to the colorful world of still lifes. Children will learn about the artist Frida Kahlo and create a beautiful, vibrant mixed media still life with tempera paints, painted paper and chalk pastels. 


Students love creating their fruit shapes, adding tempera paint, and applying chalk to create highlights, as well as color in the background.

Project Two

How about a mixed media still life using tempera paint and chalk pastels?  


Not sure where to begin? Try our full color downloadable art lessons.

This 38 page pdf includes:

  • Step by step full-color photo tutorials for each lesson
  • Historical background information about Frida Kahlo 
  • Full color images of her paintings
  • Vocabulary words and learning objectives for each lesson
  • Supplies needed for each project
  • Helpful tips
  • Reproducible still life handout
  • Reproducible fruit and bird stencils
  • Student galleries
  • How to Make Painted Paper tutorial
  • I Can statements
  • National Standards
  • Reproducible coloring sheet for early finishers
  • Reproducible artist statement
  • Vocab cards
  • 11″ x 17″ poster

These lessons are great for ages 8-12.

Need a drawing project? Why not create a circle still life inspired by her 1942 Still Life?

First, students drew with pencil, a large circle on a 12″ x 12″ white drawing paper. Next, they drew various fruits such as watermelon, apples, oranges, pineapples, etc.,  and added flowers around the edge of the border. Using colored pencils or oil pastels they colored the fruits and flowers completely. Last, they used a medium sized flat brush and painted the outer edge of the circle with a dark color tempera paint.    

Keep on Creating!

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