The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo
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In This Section:
Teacher's Guide
Parent's Guide

Teacher's Guide

Artistic Expression

Suggested Viewing Segments
(all times are approximate)

[0:00-0:05:30 (introduction)]
[0:05:30-0:09:40 (childhood and family background)]
[0:18:40-0:25:40 (accident and self-portraits)]


Students will:
  • analyze Frida Kahlo's paintings to determine how she used them for self-expression.

  • create a personal piece of art to express sentiments on a particular subject.


Invite students to share art venues/styles they use or might use to express themselves, and how they do or would reflect, for example, personal views, experiences, and emotions through their art. (The variety of art venues is expansive – poetry, music, personal essays, short stories, videos, audio recordings, painting, cartooning, computer graphics and dance are examples.)


Segue into a discussion about Frida Kahlo and her use of art to express herself. Be sure students are familiar with the artist's primary art venue, the self-portrait. Ask students to discuss what a self-portrait is, what its common characteristics are, and whether they can identify other self-portraits done by famous artists.

Students can discuss the expressive value of this form, using references to Frida's work.

Based on the film and other resources about the artist, have students generate a list of experiences Frida references in her work. The list should include the bus accident, the loss of her baby, her physical disabilities and pain, Diego Rivera, family, friends, romantic interests, travels and her Mexican heritage.

Provide students with a series of Frida's paintings that reflect the subjects they have identified. (Or students may each analyze one painting reflecting all the subjects.) Now, taking on the role of "art expert", have students analyze the paintings in small groups or individually. In their analysis, students should identify the work's subject; describe how Frida has represented the subject (with specific references to detail); note the time in her life when she created the piece; and determine what her feelings were when she painted the picture.

Have students share and debate their impressions and as a class- identifying, for example, what was most important to her as an artist, and how she used her art to express her joys and challenges. What conclusions do they reach about Frida's style and artistic process in relation to her life?

Invite students to choose an art form and create a piece that reflects their current state of being or perspective on an issue of importance to them. Students can display their work in a classroom art show where they can explain to viewers (fellow students and teachers) the symbolism of and references in their work.

Online Resources

The Smithsonian American Art Museum
This site provides an interactive look at other artists' self-portraits and collections, as well as painting and biographical information.

The National Portrait Gallery of Britain
This site offers information about the gallery's collections, interviews, and self-portraits and other paintings by "Creative Women in the National Portrait Gallery Collection."

The Art of Frida Kahlo
"The Art of Frida Kahlo" is explored by Julie Taymor for "NOW with Bill Moyers," in a special section including Kahlo's biography and an interview with Taymor.

Frida by Kahlo
The concise and informative circumstances of various selected Kahlo paintings are told on this easy to read page.

Frida Kahlo Paintings
This Web page has links to numerous different online exhibits and image galleries of Kahlo's work throughout the years.

Frida Kahlo Online
This Artcyclopedia page consists of links to Kahlo's paintings in museums and public galleries, art auctions, photos, biographical information, Web sites and articles.

This Web page offers date, medium, and gallery information for 15 different paintings, including "The Suicide of Dorothy Hale," "What I Saw in the Water (What the Water Gave Me)," "Portrait of Eva Frederick," and "Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress."

Frida Kahlo: Contemporary Thoughts
This extensive site includes the sections, Updated News, Frida's Paintings, Frida Cult, A Brief Biography, A Few Critical Essays, The Most Complete Biography on the Web, Frida and Contemporary Arts, Exhibitions, and Friends. This main page also includes an interesting Flash movie on Kahlo.

The Hammond Gallery
This page offers views of numerous Kahlo works, including an interactive discussion boards for each painting where users can post comments about her artwork.


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)

Visual Arts
4: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
5: Understands the characteristics and merits of one's own artwork and the artwork of others

World History
42: Understands major global trends from 1900 to the end of World War II

4: Understands the physical and human characteristics of place
6: Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Historical Understanding
2: Understands the historical perspective

Extended Activities

Students can:
  • Study the role that education played in Frida Kahlo's life. What aspects of her schooling indicated her future direction? What individual beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors present during her school days did she take with her into adulthood? How did she, in her later years, instruct students? Did she draw from the way she learned?

  • Read and analyze academic articles and essays commenting on Frida's life and art.
    The Trouble with Frida Kahlo
    This page discusses various extraordinary sides of Frida, including her moustache, her amputations, and her sexuality.

    "Diego and I:" The Fiery Relationships of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
    This page provides background on several of Kahlo's most famous pieces, and even includes a poem by the artist.

    The Hidden Frida: Covert Jewish Elements in the art of Frida Kahlo
    This exceptionally thorough page explores the Frida Kahlo's Jewish heritage and culture, exemplified in her personality, statements, and symbolic paintings.
  • Write monologues using the voice of people close to Frida (students, family members, romantic partners), speaking about their involvement with her.

About the Author
From classroom instructor to an executive director, Michele Israel has been an educator for nearly 20 years. She has developed and managed innovative educational initiatives, taught in nontraditional settings in the United States and overseas, developed curricula and educational materials, and designed and facilitated professional development for classroom and community educators. Her clients have included Newsweek, PBS, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and Education World. She is currently communications manager for planned giving and endowments at the United Jewish Communities.

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Other lessons: A Likely and Unlikely Match: Frida and Diego | Culture in Art

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