Kahlo, Frida (Mexican, 1907-1954)

The Accident

Reference Type:
Frida Kahlo suffered throughout most of her life from the effects of an accident that happened in Mexico City when she was 18. This is the only work of art she created that relates directly to the incident. She and her boyfriend were riding a wooden bus that was shattered in a collision with a trolley. Her boyfriend, who was himself injured, discovered her body impaled by a metal handrail. Before help could arrive someone removed the railing, which would have caused copious bleeding. When the ambulance arrived and the medics did triage, they at first put Kahlo in the group they were certain could not be saved. They did in the end treat her, but were afraid she would die from her injuries, which, in addition to the impalement, were substantial: her spine was broken in three places, her right leg in eleven, and her pelvis in three; she had two broken ribs and a broken collarbone; and her right foot was dislocated and crushed. In the drawing she represented herself on a Red Cross (Cruz Roja) stretcher, almost entirely covered in bandages. She spent a month in the hospital and then was sent home to recuperate. She never fully recovered, and 29 years later died essentially from the after-effects of these early wounds. Many of her later paintings refer to the pain, numerous treatments, and other issues caused by the accident. Notes by Mariann Smith
Art of Medicine
Collection of Juan Coronel, Cuernavaca, Mexico